Anthony Walker is back into a full band set up on This City Won’t Sleep, his third release since the release of 2008’s When Strangers Say Hello. I’ve known Walker to be the consummate singer-songwriter when he gears up with an acoustic guitar and nothing more, but I’m usually not a huge fan of seeing him lost in the mix of a band. Something about his original selling point just gets lost in the sauce once you add the run-and-gun of electric guitars, drums, bass and piano, but, like anything else, experience and adjustment can change the present roundly.
Anthony has really stepped it up on this latest project, taking control of an electric band and remaining the focus of the songs instead of sitting deep in the melee. This City Won’t Sleep (featuring his live band, The Medicine Chest) represents Walker’s journey into blues and rock. It’s also filled with his trademark elements of folk and soul and he mixes acoustic and electric while tackling topical and deeply personal stories. Like some of his favorite artists before him, Walker has developed an instantly recognizable sound that retains the timeless tribute to American roots music, past and present.
The disc features lots of well-known local musicians including Rick Barry, Jerzy Jung, Alex Brumel, Tommy Strazza, Joanna Burns and Amanda Duncan and many more. Produced by Eric Novod (Del Soul) and mixed by John Noll at the ever-capable Retromedia Studios in Red Bank, there’s not much sonically to dislike here.
Songs that jumped off the disc were the country-tinged sensibilities of “Forget The Railroad,” a laid back Amy-Helm-meets-Johnny-Prine number that features dark and sparkled six-string bends, upbeat, brush-stroked drums, behind the barrel-house pianos and organs of either Ed Fritz or Michael Gaceta. I’m not sure which, as the musicians aren’t labeled per contribution.
“I’m Taking You With Me” also shines true to Walker’s original style. Sparse instrumentation dodges out of the path of his vocal solitude and lyrical tale. The clean, single-note guitar run in the bridge section dances center stage before receding back into the somber, two-step country waltz. The horn melody in the outro comes courtesy of Matt Leskovic, Luke Panella and Dan Reitz as a great addition to a great song.
“Darlene” is Walker at his best as he takes the spotlight with acoustic guitar and the beautiful backing of Elyssa Samsel on violin. Deep-toned finger picking lays the groundwork for Walker’s vulnerable vocal delivery. His story is one of faith and redemption and the confession of unrequited love. Languishing and fluid, “Darlene” rolls from the mind of Anthony Walker like a water-driven mill wheel after a long, spring rain.
“The Movie Universe” is one of the songs that radio should pick up fast. Upbeat rock and roll in the tradition of Tom Petty and Warren Zevon, this four-on-the-floor Americana anthem blends tight instrumentation with dynamic pause, staying out of the way and supporting Walker’s voice in fine style. This is yet another song that utilizes interesting horn arrangements in the outro.
“This City Won’t Sleep” kicks off with a rich, tremolo-driven Brian Wilson vibe before organs flare and guitars down-stroke slashes of over-driven tube tone. Big, loose bass drums thunder on cue and recede as Walker weaves into the heart of this composition. His lyrics are intelligent and filled with inventive imagery as he sings, “They know what’s coming/Sometimes I can’t decide if a hand is worth shaking, if it’s my tongue that’s tied/This city won’t sleep tonight, on the back of the morning, a flag’s waving high.”
Anthony closes his disc with the piano-driven solace of “Oh, My Sierra.” Once again, he sets up the song with minimal accompaniment for the gradual build and addition of all things gritty and countrified. Walker’s vocals rise above the band easily and stay constant and focused throughout. I love the feel and warble of the real piano. Probably the old Grand Johnny Noll keeps at Retromedia Studios. Pure Charlie Pride tone comes out of that keyboard.
Anthony Walker will never be a writer that shrinks from taking chances and I respect him for that attitude. If musicians always just played it safe, we would have no real music to react to. This City Won’t Sleep steers clear of that generic posturing and hits most of the marks it’s aiming for from the very first note. I initially felt that he was always at his best without a full band, but exceptions such as “Forget The Railroad” and “I’m Taking You With Me” show that he’s made the tough transition from folkman to frontman with style. For more on Anthony Walker and This City Wont Sleep, head over to anthony-walker.com.
EOS – New Jersey’s Next Big Move
Phil Spector was always a huge fan of more is better than less, and it worked well for many famed performers and numerous hits that he produced throughout the last few decades. New Jersey-based multi-instrumentalist/producer Joe Birardi takes that same method into the live arena with his latest bonafide blitzkrieg called EOS.
Featuring a whopping nine-piece band, its four sizzling female singers put this group way over the top in the best of ways. The band features Birardi (Dirty Rats, Trench, Heat, Blondsense) as well as rhythm guitarist Bill Tuohy (Heat, Blondsense), bassist Wendy Williamson (The Horton’s, Superband) and third guitarist Andy Ilyinsky. Add drummer Andy Jr. and you have a full stage of rock and roll veterans that put on an unstoppable show.
Birardi’s “big” idea stemmed from watching the same old delivery in club after club where the music was governed by the stereotypical four-piece format. The EOS front line is impressive indeed. Made up of Kristen Chadwick, Theresa Wilson, Dawn Szollar and Danielle Zelenak, the four dynamic beauties spin pristine rock and roll harmony while the band churns and it’s never a dull moment.
EOS continues their tradition of “big” with their latest recording, which was just completed at East Coast Productions. Featuring interesting and fresh music, EOS has included a cover of New Jersey’s legendary Well Of Souls hit song, “Mrs. Foxworth.” Several other Birardi-penned songs such as the popular “Far Away Love Song” and “Bad Romance” can be heard on the upcoming debut CD that is available for sale at iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon. For the month of August all downloads of the song will be donated to the troops serving overseas and across the country.
EOS will be unveiling their new material and super-sized live show at the Rootstock Music Festival concert series on Aug. 27 at 2 p.m. Rootstock Music Festival will be held from Aug. 26 through 28 at CB Huntington’s Entertainment Complex, 140 Route 9, Bayville, NJ. For more information, head over to bandgmusic.com and check out the band at eosrocks.com. Also, see how you can help the troops by checking their needs over at adoptasoldierplatoon.org.