Joe Makoviecki is a singer-songwriter from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. He is one of the founding members of the indie folk band Thomas Wesley Stern and has been playing with them since 2010. All the while, while releasing four albums in the last five years with Thomas Wesley Stern, Joe has been consistently releasing LoFi LPs, EPs, and singles on makoviecki.bandcamp.com.
Compared to Thomas Wesley Stern, which is very folky and harmonious, Joe’s solo music is a rawer, more relaxed take on the same personal lyrics he usually brings to the table.
Joe has been writing songs and playing in local bands around New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York since he was 13 years old, playing basements, backyards, bars, and sweet sixteens. Since then his band has traveled across the U.S. as well as England and Ireland, playing original and traditional folk music.
Joe Makoviecki and his bandmates in Thomas Wesley Stern had a good year in 2015. He traveled around the country a few times, released a new LP with them as well as opened for bigger bands at better concerts such as the Gentlemen Of The Road Stopover in Seaside Heights with Mumford & Sons and The Flaming Lips as well as opening for Nicole Atkins and The Avett Brothers and packing the indoor stage at The Stone Pony in August.
Now that TWS is finishing up their 2015 schedule—they’re taking some time to write, hang out, and record their next album—Joe has been playing other songs that he has written at small places around Asbury Park, Southern New Jersey, and Philadelphia.
This writing is to anticipate Joe releasing his first solo effort, a limited edition cassette tape named Lost Kids on Casanova Cassettes out of Red Bank, NJ. It contains eight songs and is a combination of one of Makoviecki’s latest EPs with two single/B-sides he released on his Bandcamp website this past autumn. They will be available at Joe’s appearances as well as Thomas Wesley Stern concerts in 2016, followed by a full-length solo record in spring of 2016.
The new music is a new and exciting interpretation of J.T.’s ongoing musical journey. Thomas Wesley Stern is still a priority, but Joe also has his own musical agendas and directions to explore. And that’s what this new music covers. I took a few moments to listen to some of the songs and leave you with my impressions.
“Little Bit Of Sunlight” is up first. Comprised of vocal and acoustic guitar, Joe works through the personal parts of his life. From losing his father at an early age to deals of a new life and the sacrifice that entails, Makoviecki explores the areas in life that offer shelter and safety from the storm. Raw and unhindered by mass production, “Little Bit Of Sunlight” shines bright and clear.
“I Just Wanna Be Here With You” is up next. A little more amped up, this song features drum, bass and guitar work. Makoviecki brings me back to the early days of James Taylor on this one. Melodic and filled with thought-out chord work, “I Just Wanna Be Here With You” covers the romantic view of a subject in love. Makoviecki’s lyrical skill tells an intricate story while laying down musical styles of the beautiful 1960s. I love the Neil Young-styled guitar work in the intro a well. Slightly dissonant and off key, it’s the perfect sound for Joe’s follow-up lyrical work.
“Worth It (Anyway)” is next on the EP. Kicking things off with a dual musical guitar intro, Makoviecki launches into his theme with the power and the feel of Ryan Adams. His lyrics are honest and passionate. Layering the imagery of movement and romance as one, Joe moves from point to point as he builds his musical masterpiece. This is completely different than Thomas Wesley Stern, and that’s the point he’s trying to drive home. Guitars drive the piece with succinct passages and smart chord arrangements.
“If You Just Hold On/Poor Boy” finishes out this too short disc. Exploring the feelings of the lost, Makoviecki lays out the pieces of living in the world tough on quiet existence. A world of distractions and excuses that somehow throw us off guard from the things we need to be aware of. “I wanna talk to you tonight of things you would not say. You’re in the headlights of my Honda as I drive away. You work so hard for that minimum wage check, how does it feel to be broke at the end of the summer?” The lead guitar at 3:27 is both ragged and charming, tying the song into the end quite well.
J.T. Makoviecki has done well on Lost Kids, bringing intimate lyrical delivery right up front with his musical talent and it was an enlightening look into the mind of a true singer-songwriter. As stated earlier, Thomas Wesley Stern isn’t going away, but Joe still needs to use these songs as a viable outlet for musical ideas and it’s a great set of compositional diamonds in the rough.
To hear the songs for yourself, head over to Bandcamp and check them out. Joe has other music available at the site too. The address is https://makoviecki.bandcamp.com. And for more on upcoming live shows or involvement head over to Facebook and look him up under J.T. Makoviecki.
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