My wife’s loathing and crummy winter weather notwithstanding, I miss Philadelphia. There’s a number of reasons why, but the five songwriters represented on this collective project attest to the musical motives. All of these guys front electric bands, but on this disc, each takes an acoustic crack at two original compositions and one cover. And it’s all very cool.
The Rolling Hayseeds’ Richard Kaufman and Buzz Zeemer’s Frank Brown are longtime Philly fixtures, each with more than a decade invested in the local pop scene. As their cover choices bear out, Kaufman’s melodic melancholia (a beautiful nightlife version of “San Francisco Is A Lonely Town”) provides a nice foil for Brown’s winsome hookiness (a faithful rendition of Gene Clark’s “Full Circle”).
Mike Brenner, formerly of the Low Road and currently of John Train, is a truly talented dobro player. He typically doesn’t get the opportunity to flex his writing and singing skills, but he impresses here with “One True Love”, a Waits-ish vocal over a wailing, distorted dobro and drum-and-bass loop. Bonus points for his cover contribution, a twangy adaptation of “Pet Sounds”.
I wasn’t hip to Gerry McGoldrick when I lived in Philly; my loss. “Take My Place” finds a Jaggeresque vocal atop a soulful slice of rock that Van Morrison would (or should) kill for. A few songs later, he knocks off a spot-on cover of Green On Red’s “That’s What Dreams Are Made For” with an affected nasal whine.
Marah’s David Bielanko serves as newcomer and rebel; his hootenanny-styled take on Springsteen’s “Streets Of Philadelphia” was actually recorded by Marah during a taping of the syndicated radio show “World Cafe”. He also turns in a couple of somber solo gems: “Long Hot Summer” sets a simple banjo refrain against a keyboard dirge and machine-generated whooshes and whirs, while “Where The Dark Horses Go” is steeped in acoustic blues…with xylophone.