Tag Archives: Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Only Love Can Break A Heart

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Music Review: Brian Dolzani – “if i don’t speak a word…”

Is Brian Dolzani’s new album a sign that the best is yet to come from this singer-songwriter?

There are certain albums that we use to mark time. Consider this chronology… In 1969, Neil Young released his first, self titled, solo album which demonstrated that he was a distinct artist apart from the Buffalo Springfield. In 1991, Matthew Sweet released Girlfriend, a mix of ballads and joyful hard rock pop that resulted in its becoming the best-selling album on college campuses that year. And in late 2012, Brian Dolzani released his lower-case entitled 12-song collection, if i don’t speak a word…

Dolzani’s website uses three words to describe his album: Introspective/Heartfelt/Intimate. It’s a start.

My first impression, upon hearing an early sampler with 5 songs from word, was that Dolzani sounds more than a bit like early Neil Young. He also has a freshness and love for his craft that calls to mind the younger Matthew Sweet. It just so happens that both Sweet and Dolzani are admirers of Mr. Young, and sing one or more of his songs when they perform live.

Dolzani has a great way with words and phrases, some of which are only caught after listening to his songs more than once: “I spent a lifetime looking for a lost clue…”, “I fell in a forest and nobody heard it…”, “History is yours to steal…”

The CD begins with “Older Now,” which sounds like a track from the Crosby, Stills & Nash album. The singer is still trying to figure out life, and we’re the beneficiaries of his confused pondering. Track two, “Reasons,” sounds like Leo Sayer in its melancholy tone and lyrics. Which takes us to “Whether or Not,” the best song never recorded by Neil Young and Crazy Horse. The singer is battered and bruised by life and love’s indifference, “I lose blood and it matters not to me…” He wants to see the face of the guy who his girl now loves more than he. Although the band behind Dolzani is a bit too synchronized to be Crazy Horse, any Young fan will agree that this is a fine song in the style of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere or After the Goldrush.

In “Before Midnight,” the singer asks his girlfriend to respond to his questions: “Are we still good together? Are we still in love?” Here, Dolzani comes across like an early day Jackson Browne. He interacts well with the instrumentation, singing with it and not overpowering it. “Sail This Sea,” is a divorce song that might have been written by Phil Collins. “I’ve been trying so long, and all I got was another song.”

The protagonist of “Broken” views his life as a mess, with the pieces of his body lying on the floor. The singer has been knocked down, but he’s ready to get up and rejoin life; he’s healing even if it means having to revisit “old feelings, old dreams.” It’s a Tim Hardin-style song that reminded me of “No Regrets.” In “Not As Lonely,” the protagonist tries to convince himself that his world has not ended because his lover has left him. It recalls “I Thought I Knew You” from Sweet.

“Hey Dad” is Dolzani’s tribute to his late father, a man who was not perfect. It’s enlivened by a Beatles Revolver-style backing track. “Wilted” includes a Harvest era melody harmonica, as the singer concludes (in words that almost sound lifted from Young), “Happily ever after is a fantasy…” The protagonist in Young’s “The Loner” would identify perfectly with this song.

“Fair” is about the unfairness in a relationship in which one party loves more than the other. The sentiments are similar to those on Sweet’s “Nothing Lasts” and it’s bolstered by a nice steel guitar. In the piano-based “Autumn in Central Park,” the singer expresses ambivalence about love. “Even when you know that you’re in love/There are times when you’ve had enough…”

The album concludes with “I’m Sorry Now”. The singer is down (“I’m sorry for the way I can make you feel like you’re dead.”) but there’s a tone of hopefulness for the future on the edge of his voice. It makes for a fitting conclusion to the album, except that it feels like an idea for a song rather than something fully realized.

I think most will find this to be a pleasant and enjoyable collection of songs. Its weakness is that it suffers from a lack of variety in tone. As one person remarked, “A little bit of that guy goes a long way.” On Girlfriend, Matthew Sweet sang a number of heartbreak ballads, but he also unleashed four wild and heavy rock songs, “Divine Intervention,” “Evangeline,” “Girlfriend” and “Does She Talk?” Perhaps Dolzani can find two or three lead guitarists to similarly embolden his next recording session.

Bear in mind that Brian Dolzani is a very talented and creative musician. He may now have to live with the knowledge that – as stated by the reknowned philosopher Snoopy – “There’s no heavier burden than a great potential.”

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This review originally appeared on the Blogcritics Music site:

http://blogcritics.org/music/article/music-review-brian-dolzani-if-i1/

To hear the complete album, if i don’t speak a word…, go to:

http://www.briandolzani.com/wp/listen/

A review copy of the CD was provided by a publicist.

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Everybody Knows This is Nowhere

Mrs. Somebody Somebody: Fiction by Tracy Winn (Random House; $14.00)

“Lucy Mattsen was nobody – like all the women I worked with – until the day the baby fell out the window.”

With that near-perfect opening sentence, Tracy Winn delivers a collection of short stories that promises more than they deliver.   This is not a bad collection, it’s just that the stories are uneven in tone although they – in theory – are joined by being the tales of a group of individuals who lived in a dying mill town in the Northeastern region of the United States.   These are stories about people in different walks of life:  rich by inheritance and work versus the poor; old bloods versus immigrant arrivals; foppish people of privilege who live in dated but glorious mansions versus the people who live down in the boondocks in the abandoned mills.

What these individuals have in common is that of all the places to live in the world, in this country, they have chosen (or had chosen for them) to live in a place whose time has come and gone.   There’s a sense that they are ghosts in the town where one mill operates in the place of the six that once made it a place of prosperity.   And even that one remaining mill closes.

It is left to the reader to determine the time frame, the date, of each story.   Generally the only clue provided by Winn is a mention of the make and model of an automobile (Chevy Bel Air, Chevette, Dodge Aspen).   Other than this, there’s a sense of disorientation that occasionally may remind the reader of Audrey Niffenegger’s (Her Fearful Symmetry) prose.

Winn can write:  “He imagined her taking long strides under the sprawling shade trees, past the trim hedges of sunny Fairmont Avenue…  the lithe lines of her, the symmetry of her lean face, her pulse beating in the tender skin below her ear.   She’d swing her bare arms, the hot sun on her face, her skirt swishing declaratively.   She walked the way she thought, in a straight clear path.   She sliced through life, clean-edged.”

The issue is that while Winn can build interest in her characters, to this reader they never felt like real persons, true human beings; the stories  often have the feel of writing exercises, of something written for an academic assignment.   Thus, we never come to feel at one with these individuals; these quasi-ghosts remain just that.   (They are not persons we wish to spend much time with.)

The best stories in this group come at the end, as if Winn was beginning to warm up, to find her voice, the closer she came to completing the work.   Tracy Winn surely shows her potential here, although the potential is largely unrealized.   If you’re currently in the market for a collection of short stories, a preferable choice would be Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It by Maile Meloy (reviewed on this site on June 21, 2010, “Having It All”).   But be warned that Meloy does not open her set with a near-perfect first sentence.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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