The Monacchios: Musical and Marital Bliss with the Wedding Album
Keith Monacchio and Sheli Arden share both a marital and musical collaboration that brings forth memories of Johnny and June, George Jones and Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams Sr. and Audrey Guy, to name a few. Banding together creatively can be a risky business in the world of matrimony, but as the examples mentioned above have shown, it can also lead to some wonderful results.
Both Monacchio and Arden have been musicians on the scene for some time (Monacchio hails from The Semi-Beings and The Commons). His songs have been featured on MTV’s The Real World, MTV’s 8th & Ocean and TV Land’s High School Reunion. The year 2010 saw the release of The Long Evening, his first solo record, to some stellar reviews. It was voted the number 12 best release of the decade in Gary Wien’s book, Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums Of 2001 – 2010 From New Jersey Artists.
While Arden is the freshman performer in this duo, she has had a few praiseworthy projects herself. Albums such as her latest, Kansas, put her in serious focus on the songwriter circuit. Arden has made good progress in finding her own voice and identity since that time. It is demonstrated well on the couple’s first team-up platter, Wedding Album.
Comprised of 10 songs, Wedding Album was recorded in five short days at SRG Studios in Hamilton, NJ, with Sean Glonek behind the board and in the production chair. In addition to writing the songs together, Keith and Sheli handled most of the instruments, while inviting the very talented Melissa Anthony (We Are) to sing on three of the songs. The central themes that run throughout are redemption, love, apprehension, confidence and coming to grips with the past, while anticipating a bright and harmonious future.
Whatever the future brings for these two, the one thing I can honestly say is that they excel at communication and composition with Wedding Album. A song that stood out right away was “I Could Get Used To You,” a two-part harmony and acoustic guitar number that reminds me of something The Pretenders might be doing if they were still churning out grassroots pop. Simplistic lead lines and lyrical imagery are used to explain devotion and dedication with the line “I will fight to the death for you, in combat boots.” Monacchio’s time-tested tone brings recollections of Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), and Arden trills melodically along the line of Jane Wiedlin of The Go Go’s.
“Lost At Sea” features the vocal panache of Melissa Anthony, who handles the aural sound sculpturing of the background vocals with smooth and effortless skill. It is interesting to note that this song actually switches from husband and wife duo to mother and daughter performance. If there were ever a local family release that stays close to the simple and cozy kitchen, this would be it. Fingerpicked acoustic guitars chime music box clean, supporting the countrified folk fare of Arden and Anthony as they sift away the chaff to expose this little gem of a song.
Anthony once again joins the duo on “Safe Harbor,” a singsong call-and-response sprinkled with the rhythmic magic of producer Sean Glonek. Sean is a dynamic player that never gets in the way; his floor tom supports the melody and dodges Anthony and Arden’s ethereal background vocals while Monacchio handles the brunt of the lead line work. The 1950s formula is standard but timeless strategy, and the four work this song like the intricate mechanisms of a Swiss watch.
“Rainy Day Wedding,” describes the experience of the American union and all the complexities of the affair: Family, friends, the procession of jubilation, exasperation and the comedy of errors that melt into an important mile marker in any couple’s life. Monacchio has always had the gift of clear storytelling, and continues that trait here with the laid back and casual nature of a porch-side conversation. “Rainy Day Wedding” pokes fun at the soggy barbs of nature as it does its best to bring down a day it can never really affect.
Wedding Album is a humble, good-natured offering from a duo that has weathered the good, the bad and the ugly in their ongoing matrimonial and musical journey through these quizzical times. For more info on performances and CD availability head over to reverbnation.com/themonacchios.
Rich Russo: Back in Rare And Free Form With Anything, Anything
Rich Russo is a lifelong Jersey resident that knows what it’s all about. As he says in his biography, “Part of, if not all of, the woes of radio, and especially rock radio, is the formula it’s become. Focus groups and call out hooks. It’s ridiculous. A great song is a great song regardless of its source. Despite the digital outlets now and ‘genome selection crap,’ the audience is hungry and wants the DJ to help them discover their music choices. That is what DJs do. I want to turn you onto cool things regardless of genre.”
As of Sept. 18, Anything, Anything, hosted by Rich Russo, has made its return to radio on both 107.1 WXPK and 105.5 WDHA on Sunday nights. The top-rated “free form” radio show is playing rare, underground music tracks of fan’s favorite artists, as well as local artists, with a healthy dose of Russo’s stories and brash viewpoints on the state of music and the scene we all wallow in.
107.1 WXPK “The Peak” is the leader of rock music in Westchester County, NY. Anything, Anything is broadcasted live on Sunday nights from 9:00-11:00 p.m. EST. The program will also stream online at 1071thepeak.com.
105.5 WDHA “The Rock of NJ,” now in its 50th year on-air, is based in Northern New Jersey. Anything, Anything is broadcasted live on Sunday nights on WDHA from 11:00 p.m.-1:00 a.m. EST. The program will stream online at wdhafm.com.
“I am honored ‘Anything, Anything’ will be back on two legendary radio stations: WXPK in Westchester and WDHA in Jersey,” said Russo. “Both stations are leaders in breaking bands and deeply connecting with their audiences. I am proud to have the opportunity to keep free-form radio on the commercial dial.”
The Cranford, NJ. resident fittingly named Anything, Anything after the hit song by Dramarama. The show first came on the air in 2008 on WRXP in New York City. The “free form” show quickly grew with a devoted listener base as the result of Russo not having any restraints on his program set list—along with its raw and gutsy feel. He will regularly dig into his personal library of over 100,000 albums.
Rich is no couch potato when it comes to his love of music. Therefore, it is entirely possible that you will find yourself sitting next to him at a Bruce Springsteen (he has been to over 400 live shows) or Pearl Jam show (over 100). Shoot him a message and let him know what you like. You just might hear it on the air. For more information, visit richrusso.net.