Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New Music: Love and Streets

We here at the Vinyl Voyage love music.  Even music that is not on vinyl (but should be).  I recently wrote a review for Tom Flannery's new album, Love and Streets.  I've been a fan of Flannery's music for years.  And with each album he gets better.

Here is the review I posted on Amazon.  The album is also available in iTunes and Google Play.

It’s always a good day when Tom Flannery releases a new album. Earlier in 2012, he rocked it out with Teen Angst and the Green Flannel, his first venture into old school rock and roll. Now he returns to his roots with Love and Streets, a solo acoustic mediation about love, streets and much more. Ultimately, Flannery is a storyteller—the best of story tellers---and Love and Streets skillfully weaves narratives and emotions, producing an album that feels more like a novel than a collection of songs. And that is what Flannery has always done extremely well: by the time the final guitar sounds on the last track, we feel that we have been taken somewhere different and we have lived life through many eyes.

The album starts with “Love and Streets,” a song—you guessed it---about love and streets. But these aren’t your normal streets. These are streets where love is hard to find; where kids with “heroin eyes” roam among broken windows and “lies and cheats.” There is a certain realism to the song that speaks not only of despair, but of the possibilities of love among those streets as well. Under the surface of the grit and dirt, there is a hope. This is a theme that can often be found in Flannery’s work. It appears again in songs such as “Road Weary” and “Drunk Driving” as well. “Road Weary” is a personal favorite of mine and speaks to the long road of life where we spend much time toiling and working for others and want nothing more than to return home to our “easy chair.” The realization, though, that we have spent our life on the wrong road is palpable:

I'm road weary baby
simply bought and sold
spying from the rear-view
and scared of being old

“I Hate Getting Up in the Morning” appears five tracks later, but is a perfect companion to “Road Weary.” This song was actually included on an earlier album entitled Love in the Present Tense, released in 2007. But now, on this album, the two songs bridge an idea: after coming home from the road the cycle starts all over again as we have to get up and do it all over again:

oh I hate getting up in the morning
and putting on a shirt and tie
like a whore in church I feel besmirched
so lonesome I could cry

Throughout the album are songs that tell stories; specific stories about people and events. In “The Indianapolis,” the plight of the doomed ship, torpedoed in World War II is told through the eyes of an old veteran who still cannot “get further than the sand” but hears the cries of his comrades whenever he holds a seashell to his ear.

The next track tells the story of another incident of war, this time the massacre at My Lai, told through the perspective of another soldier. Pain, regret and the hope of forgiveness bubbles underneath the surface:

I remember the little children
and the women who held them tight
and the smoke rising from the village
that turned morning into night
my eyes just rolled back in my head
and with all that that implies
I too was KIA....
that morning in My Lai

There is a song about baseball and the hope of moving up to the big leagues (“The Show”); a song about boxing and the very real threat of dying in the ring for a small paycheck that would barely pay the rent (“The Fighter”). And, of course, there are songs about love, or something like it. “Suzie” is about distant, unrequited love—something we have all experienced at one time or another:

Your dark eyes give nothing away
I never know just what to say
to compete with all the other guys
with their fancy cars and desperate lies
I'll never need an alibi, Suzie

“Love is a Four Letter Word” ends the album, completing our journey through love and streets and everything in between. This song, like all of the songs in Flannery’s repertoire, demonstrates that nothing is as simple as it seems:

Love is an anchor that holds your place
and keeps you from drifting away
but the captain on the bridge
takes all the pain you give
because love is a four letter word

Love and Streets is an exceptional album from a master storyteller. Flannery here is at his best: plain spoken and real; intense and subtle. Life is a complex, sometimes unforgiving and painful journey that we are lucky to undertake. And Love and Streets captures that essence perfectly.

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