Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Review of Bill Scorzari's "Through These Waves"

I'm not sure how often albums as compelling as Bill Scorzari's Through These Waves appear in my life, but I'll take a guess at about once every two years...maybe three.  Through These Waves is unlike any other album you'll hear in 2017, and if there is any justice in this world Scorzari will become a well-known name within the world of Americana and folk music.

Scorzari recorded his sophomore album in the legendary East Nashville Bomb Shelter studio, with producer Jonah Tolchin. Recorded through a vintage 1970s MCI console and mixed to tape, the album possesses a deeply rich sound that seems to physically surround you with an earthy, hypnotizing warmth.

"A Dream Of You" starts the album as a meditative, trance-like rhythm with percussion, bowed strings, and a lap steel weaving through each other with a relaxed interdependence as they eventually get tied together with Scorzari's acoustic guitar. As Scorzari starts singing, one quickly realizes this album is going to be a unique and singular experience. His voice, deep and raspy, quickly reminds you of Tom Waits and Malcolm Holcombe, but there's never a moment where you wonder if you're getting the complete and genuine voice of Bill Scorzari. The Waits and Holcombe vocal comparisons will come quick and easy, but the similarities are purely coincidental.  A singer--or any artist for that matter--on this level of artist expression can only exist through their complete honesty. Anything less is quickly dismissed as contrived.

What makes this album so special--and digs into a more appropriate Waits connection--is that Scorzari does not come to us to be a musician, instead using the language of music as a mere tool to lay bare his soul and comfort us with the universal vulnerability of the human experience. Artists that have this ability are rare--Waits, Dylan, Cohen, and today's John Moreland and Jason Isbell--and aren't musicians so much as world-class poets that happened to pick up a guitar. Again, it's impossible to join this club by only being 99% genuine.

A deep bow goes to Jonah Tolchin and the cast of studio musicians assembled for this project. Each song has its own unique identity with layers of interesting combinations of familiar instruments playing unfamiliar rhythms and voicing. It's as if each musician dropped their bag of licks at the door and came to the songs with a blank slate to discover their specific soul and personality.

Each year you hope to find an album that you can't stop talking about and that you find excuses to bring up in normal conversation because you can't get it out of your head. Through These Waves will be that album for many of us. It transcends the normal process of "listening to music," and becomes a portal to that deep soulful connection to humanity that we search for in so many (often self-destructive) ways.

It's like that moment
When you first realize
That everyone you know
Is hurting just as much as you
And no one really knows 
Just what to do

Yeah, they're all just as messed up as you are

They're all just as effed up as you are

And you will always be

Until you own it
As far as I can see
And when I say you
I mean me....me

"I Can Carry This" 

Great poets don't run from the pain, they embrace it, they transform it, and they grow from it; in doing so, they allow us to, as well.

--Brian Paul Swenk

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