Peter Wolf | Midnight Souvenirs

Verve/UME (2010)
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  March 30, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars


This Boston music legend’s metamorphosis from party animal to monster songwriter became complete with his previous solo album, 2002’s Sleepless, a superbly crafted group of songs plucked from the J. Geils Band frontman’s interesting life among the artistic elite and the populace of the demi-monde. Although his latest is less personal, it has a similarly broad emotional scope and a warm sonic palette far from the house-rocking R&B that’s the foundation of his four-decade career.

Just released as a single on iTunes, “Tragedy” is a duet with Nashville bad girl Shelby Lynne, a he-said/she-said about the possible end of a romance that embraces country, blues, rock, and R&B. The least likely pairing is “It’s Too Late for Me,” where Wolf swaps lines with country giant Merle Haggard; both find the warmest registers of their voices for this tear-in-my-beer weeper with an arrangement that’s part Floyd Kramer and part Les Paul.

Alt-country heroine Neko Case sings with Wolf in “The Green Fields of Summer,” one of the few unbridled love songs here, her pristine timbre sailing over Celtic fiddle. Wolf has always made the most of his own narrow vocal range with the old-school power and elegance of his phrasing. And he’s never sung better, whether negotiating the rocking curves of “I Don’t Wanna Know” or spitting arrows in the blues-modeled “Thick As Thieves.” He sounds especially good when his voice is almost naked in the mix, as on “Then It Leaves Us All Behind” and the Stonesy “Don’t Try To Change Her” — dry and up front and swelling with vulnerability. The playing throughout is impeccable, even when it replicates the carefully orchestrated late-era Stax strings-and-soul vibe for “Overnight Lows” or tackles New Orleans’s Meters in “Everything I Do (Gonna Be Funky).” Since Wolf constantly trolls the Boston clubs for talent, it’s no surprise his core outfit includes regional A-listers guitarist Kevin Barry, bassist Marty Ballou, and drummer Marty Richards.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Celebrity News, Entertainment, CD review,  More more >
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   TOM HAMBRIDGE | BOOM!  |  August 23, 2011
    Roots rock is the new country and ex-Bostonian Tom Hambridge is the style's current MPV.
  •   COUNTRY STRONG | SOUNDTRACK  |  January 11, 2011
    This steaming pile of songs is emblematic of the state of mainstream country music — all artifice, no heart, calculated anthems written to formula and meant, like the film itself, to do no more than capitalize on the genre's current success and rob its undiscriminating fans.
  •   MARC RIBOT | SILENT MOVIES  |  November 02, 2010
    This exceptional, eccentric guitarist has traced a slow evolution from screamer to dreamer.
  •   IN MEMORIAM: SOLOMON BURKE, 1940 — 2010  |  October 11, 2010
    Boston-based blues-guitar virtuoso Ronnie Earl seems to be considering his past on his 23rd album as a leader.

 See all articles by: TED DROZDOWSKI