Rant’n’Roll: Fab Faux Solo, FEM Confessional, Rough-Hewn Troubadour & Southside Does Bruce

Rant’n’Roll: Fab Faux Solo, FEM Confessional, Rough-Hewn Troubadour & Southside Does Bruce

—by , May 24, 2017

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Each of the seven tracks on the self-released, self-produced Lake Songs by Jack Snax is totally different. He could’ve made seven entire albums in each direction. Snax is actually Jack Petruzzelli of The Fab Faux. He’s the guy who brings down the house every single time he sings “Oh Darling.” The Beatlesque moment here is “Jack’s Aunt,” complete with Tin Pan Alley megaphone. It’s a cabaret gem, wildly inventive and reminiscent of “Honey Pie.” But it’s “She” that blows me away with its ethereal, not-to-be-expected quiet smoldering fire. Revealing layers of nuance, it’s mysterious with nimble finger-picking and a haunting vocal. It sounds like Pink Floyd in their embryonic phase. “I met McCartney in a Hamptons pizza place and we talked for five minutes about Fats Waller and musicians from earlier generations who have influenced us,” says Petruzzelli, who called while honeymooning in New Orleans. He claims he was going for an Elliott Smith or Nick Cave vibe (he’s a generation younger than I) for “She” but loved and understood how I heard Pink Floyd. Currently producing Joan Osborne’s upcoming all-Dylan CD, Jack will be appearing with her at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ, July 30.

I contend there is no band that makes this beloved Beatle catalog come alive on a stage like The Fab Faux. This music is too good, it’s too much a part of our rock ‘n’ roll DNA not to thrill to live. The Beatles themselves, who quit touring in 1966, never performed their best music live. With an unerring attention-to-detail plus strings, horns, sitar, four-part harmony amidst a jam-band mentality, I would leave home and follow them!

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When I was 16, I used to read Crawdaddy cover to cover and took what that magazine’s writers had to say as the gospel. The year was 1967 and it was all I had. Paul Williams was the editor. Singer/songwriter/guitarist Cindy Lee Berryhill’s 1994 Garage Orchestra hit me like a ton of bricks when I was 43. Three years later, she married Williams, who had suffered a severe brain injury while biking. In 2004, Williams developed dementia, was placed in full-time care in 2009 and died in 2013. Berryhill’s last album, the tear-stained Beloved Stranger, came in 2007. Then silence. Until now. The Adventurist (Omnivore Recordings) is a song cycle inspired by the musical lunacy of Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson. Two of the players are from Wilson’s touring band. Berryhill wrote it, co-produced, plays guitar and leads a band with Syd Straw and DJ Bonebreak of X.

Favoring the unusual instrumentation of her Beach Boy hero, she eschews Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound style for a more apt blanket of strings, horns, vibraphone, glockenspiel and marimba atop conventional rock instrumentation. Two songs even use the sound of a wall heater and a dishwasher. “Something I learned from Brian is that you can have a lot of instruments but you don’t have to go big,” she says. Hardly maudlin, her lyrics, written over the course of the last five years, cement her love for her fallen partner. As such, this stands out from the glut as a pop masterpiece.

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The incessant role of waves cascading towards the shore inspires thoughtful reveries in the mind of rough-voiced troubadour Bill Scorzari who has looked at love from both sides now. His self-released Through These Waves utilizes 16 musicians to fulfill his vision: dobro, drums, percussion, upright bass, acoustic guitar, electric, lap steel and slide guitar, background vocals, fiddle, viola, cello and banjo. But it’s Bill’s show and he carries the day like a champ needing “Shelter From The Wind,” working on “Hound Dog Diggin’,” fretting that “She Don’t Care About Auld Lang Syne.” He knows he’s just a “Loser At Heart” but he also knows “It’s Time.” Yeah, it’s time alright. It’s time for these “thoughtful, soulful songs,” as mandolinist/pianist Will Kimbrough says, as sung by a guy with “one of the most idiosyncratic voices I’ve ever come across,” as guitarist Laur Joamets says, to rise up from the drek that radio force-feeds down our gullets to be heard…and savored.

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Live From E-Street, the four-song vinyl EP by Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes where he takes Bruce’s advice to “Cover Me,” debuted on the Billboard Blues Chart at #10, despite there being no blues on the EP. The band, as swinging and rocking as ever, also covers Bruce’s “Jack Of All Trades,” “Murder Inc.” and “10th Avenue Freezeout.” Man oh man, Southside done stole two songs from Bruce here because as great—and I do mean great—as he and the band sound on “Cover Me” and “Murder Inc.,” the other two songs transcend into authentic Juke gems. Southside, whose voice just keeps on getting better with age (“good living,” is his answer when he called this morning), uplifts “Jack Of All Trades” into Otis Redding territory equal in passion to “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now).” He won’t admit it, though. SS loves Otis so much he refuses to believe my faith. That’s ok, but he really rails against the notion of now owning “10th Avenue Freezeout” despite elongating it to mention David Sancious and Vini Lopez (two former E-Streeters). Plus, the sense of anticipation from the live crowd once they know what song is about to laid down for them is priceless…and the band doesn’t disappoint. About the oddball Billboard blues chart placement, Southside says, “The Jukes and I had so much fun performing these songs live for the fans who love them that it’s great to see it charted in Billboard right after it was released, which means people are liking it,” yet, upon further reflection, the always-honest singer says, “I suppose it’s nice to finally get Billboard to recognize my existence, but I make music for myself and my fans. That’s more than enough for me.”


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