Tony Tedesco with Gorgo Beach
The Bitter End
February 20, 2011
NEW YORK, NY—When I’m watching a movie, I have the crazy habit of paying attention to what’s going on in the background. Why? Because that is where you find all the detail. I like picking up on the production mistakes, and I love the memory lane trips triggered when you see places or faces you’ve known and the secret knowledge that you are somehow truly involved in the overall soul of the picture.
And that’s sort of how I like to view the music scene. Seeking out the peripheral players and underdogs who don’t quite make it to the forefront of the tower of Babel is a hobby of mine. The guys and girls ignored by scene royalty are the sorts that have become freewheeling rebel poets outcast on the crossroads and free to move in any chosen direction.
That’s why I caught interest in Monmouth county songwriter Tony Tedesco. He doesn’t embrace this business as a suited clone. That suit will never fit and he wouldn’t wear it anyhow. Tedesco doesn’t waste his energy sugar-coating his gritty, back road imagery with unicorns and lollipops. It’s all about hard living, tough love and the outcome of those course elements. Like wrestling a giant Anaconda, it’s Tedesco against the very day beast of burden that other writers choose to run away from in their public performance. Tedesco gleefully lays imperfection, sin and redemption on the table and haphazardly rolls it all into a cantankerous joint of rusty chainsaw folk that expands the mind and activates that part of you that wants to drive fast and take chances.
The Bitter End has always been a sort of tourist Mecca, but it also has much merit in some of the names that have played this mainstay watering hole. From Otis Rush to Neil Young, they’ve all passed through these doors at one time or another. So of course people line up to play here by the hundreds each month. And while I had to wait through several mediocre performers, I didn’t have to wait long for a beer as the two Bitter End girls taking care of the whole place were quick and super friendly, which is a rarity anywhere, let alone New York City.
As I stood in the corner waiting, Tedesco and his entourage came tumbling into the room and headed straight to the bar. The guy reminded me of Jim Jones and his Kool-Aid congregation as they all came tramping in as a unit. I shook my head and thought that if everybody cared enough to drag 25 people with them maybe the club owners would crack a half a smile now and then. Sunday night is a hell of a night for anything outside of my couch and flat screen, but New York in the winter is really tough. Nevertheless, every performer seemed to do his or her job and the place was full for this “audition” night presentation.
As Tedesco took the stage with mandolin player Gorgo Beach, over the top whoops and hollers told me the hardcore fans were in attendance for their favorite preacher. Crammed up front at miniature, wooden slabs that looked suspiciously like the missing kids tables I used to sit at on Thanksgiving, people hunched in to hear Tedesco spit brimstone stories of passionate remorse, love and chagrin.
Right out of the gate he hit the crowd with “These Days,” an outlaw-styled upbeat charger akin to a Steve Earle or David Allen Coe. Tedesco is all emotion from the get go; eyes-closed, dressed in knit cap and flannel, as Beach hangs back, sprinkling mandolin rooster feed all around the edges of this chicken-fried tune.
The Charlie Daniel’s feel on “Virginia” once again features the unobtrusive stylings of Beach, who looks suspiciously like a Kentucky tobacco farmer that just jumped off his tractor and picked up a git fiddle. He lends a genuine air of back porch moxy here while Tedesco whispers road-honed and intimate lyrical instruction to the hot girls sitting up front.
“In The Shadow Of Achilles” comes off in a rolling, blue-stoned Levon Helm direction. Tedesco’s nasal twang might hail from New Jersey but live it’s a Tennessee dialect for sure. Compositionally sharp bridges and choruses had the whooper’s coming back around for more.
“Salt” was a subterranean tale of life’s assertions and aspirations, triumphs and tragedies. A yarn reeled for seafaring folk and landlubbers too. Tedesco holds it against you with intention and selfish glee and at the end of the day you’re going to take it like a… well, like whatever you are.
“Lesson Hard Learned” comes off in that dirty vein of Van Morrison. Melodic mandolins run between gritty vocals and ragged guitar strums. Sharp and rusty gets it done.
“Fuck You Dad” tells it like it is. Abuse and hard-knocked tales of belt-buckles up the side of the head as blood, piss and snot tells you where this is going, and the imagery ain’t pretty. Watching the audience response demonstrates the power of lyrics.
“Diesel” is a straight-ahead rocker that goes well with beer and shots poured straight from the Black Oak Arkansas playbook. Great and simple chorus chords hammer this one way down home, and I would love to hear this with a full band. Raw and gritty as you're gonna get it. Hindsight and angst puts this tune (and the boys) on the lonesome highway to heartache. This should be the new Trailer Park Boys theme song.
“Tecato Gusano” is a country rock crossover. Story telling comes naturally for Tony Tedesco and he's probably lived it all. Mandolin and guitar dance somewhere between heaven and hell.
“Bat Shit Crazy” rings from the familiar side of everything we know in our open book of man and woman psyche. Tedesco ushers in his filthy knack for words, describing relationship nuances that turn stomachs and launch insanity-laden bombs. His disappointment in the chosen female subject is visually enhanced by his retaliatory moves against his blue sparkled axe, slashing away with a vengeance and bashing it with zeal usually reserved for James Caan and the missus. Gorgo (Frenchy) Beach stays cautiously outside the bubbling cauldron zone circling the devils fire while hand cranking music box melodies straight into the kiln of the Kraken. Once again, sensitive and emotional performance roasted in half-stepped minors and thoughtful lyrics.
He might have a name more fitting for an APM gangster, but Tony Tedesco is one of the areas most believable performers. Why? Because he doesn’t give a damn what the industry or any one else thinks of him or his dark brow music, and that liberating thought process is working much to his benefit as more and more music fans defect from the phony, folk filibustering Fauntleroys and passé punk rockers who still think this is all about money and fame.
Sitting afterwards amongst the stacks of beer cases and graffiti-washed walls in the backstage area of The Bitter End, sipping Jim Beam and eating a pastrami from Katz Deli, it reminds me why were all still involved in this usually nightmarish business. It’s about a love of creation and relating with regular people who thirst for intelligence and heart-felt honesty in their everyday interactions, and Tedesco is quietly becoming a king of that quest. For further information, go see Tony Tedesco over at reverbnation.com/tonytedesco.