Monday, July 29, 2019

Larry Wolf With Four Cats & A Canary: “Mood Swings” (2019) CD Review

There are some songs you can completely rely on. To lift you up, to connect you to the human race, to speak to whatever it is that we have in common, that which makes us human, that which keeps us breathing and trying even if we’re suffering. And Mood Swings, the new disc from Larry Wolf, is full of them. These songs are classics for a reason. They will continue to delight and move people for generations, perhaps forever (or until this planet becomes uninhabitable and humanity is extinct, which will be in like fifty years if the Republicans have their way). Larry Wolf offers wonderful, personal takes on songs like “Embraceable You,” “Goodnight Irene” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.” Joining him on this release are Adrianne Duncan on piano and vocals (Adrianne also produced the album); Jason Luckett on guitar, harmonica and vocals; John Tegmeyer on clarinet; Edwin Livingston on bass; and Dan Schnelle on drums.

Larry Wolf gets the album off to a delightful start with a fun rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” How can you fail to smile while listening to this track? There is a love for the song heard in every note, and this track features some wonderful stuff on clarinet. This song breathes and floats, and includes a cool bass solo. “Blue days/All of them gone/Nothing but blue skies/From now on.” The clarinet begins the following track “Laura,” sounding sweet and soft at moments, effectively pulling us in. Then that nice, rather laid back rhythm is established. Larry Wolf’s vocal performance is smoother here, with a romantic bent. And there is some more excellent work on bass, particularly in the second half of the track.

I may have mentioned this once or twice, but you can never go wrong with Gershwin. Larry Wolf chooses “Embraceable You,” his voice backed by guitar. His vocal delivery here has at times a relaxed quality that gives the impression he’s close to us, giving us a private performance, perhaps at a small dinner party. “I love all the many charms about you/Above all, I want my arms about you/Don’t be a naughty baby/Come to papa, do/My sweet embraceable you.” Things then take an interesting turn with his take on “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor,” a classic and beloved bluesy gem. I love his playful approach to the lyrics, and I dig the clarinet. This track also boasts some wonderful guitar work during that instrumental section partway through, and some cool stuff on bass, moving along beneath that pretty clarinet lead. This is one of my favorite tracks on the disc. It is a total delight from beginning to end. “Mmm, I do not want no pork chops/Give me some cherry pie/Gonna love you, mama/‘Til we say goodbye.”

When I was growing up, Saturday Night Live did one of those fake commercials for Linda Ronstadt’s What’s New album, with a play on its title track, the line being “I sing old songs for you/Because I can’t do what’s new” (with Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Ronstadt). I’m not sure why that has stayed with me all these years, but it has, and it comes to mind whenever I hear this song. And so here it is again. Anyway, this version is done as a duet with Adrianne Duncan, and has a light, fanciful quality. That’s followed by “Good Night Irene,” a song I love. Larry Wolf offers a kind of cheerful rendition, his vocals supported by guitar. These lines always tickle me for some reason: “Sometimes I live in the country/Sometimes I live in town/Sometimes I get a great notion/To jump into the river and drown.”

There are several songs that I learned from the Grateful Dead or the Jerry Garcia Band. “That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day)” is one of them. I saw Jerry Garcia Band perform it in 1989 when I was still a teenager, and fell in love with the song. I really like the way Larry Wolf approaches this one. The track has a folk vibe, and his voice has a gentle and slightly weary quality, which works perfectly with the lyrics. Plus, that guitar instrumental section is absolutely wonderful. This is another of my favorite tracks. It’s followed by an interesting rendition of “Georgia On My Mind,” which is beautiful at times (I love that clarinet), and kind of playful too. And there is some sweet work on piano. Larry Wolf also offers a sweet version of “You Are My Sunshine,” featuring harmonica. Nancy Wolf provides additional vocals on this track. Another of this disc’s highlights is the moving rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You,” with its late-night vibe and nice work on piano. There is a bit of heartache, a bit of sorrow in his delivery, as well as love. “I’ll find you in the morning sun/And when the night is new/I’ll be looking at the moon/But I’ll be seeing you.”

CD Track List
  1. Blue Skies
  2. Laura
  3. Embraceable You
  4. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor
  5. What’s New
  6. Good Night Irene
  7. I Won’t Cry Anymore
  8. Lucky Old Sun
  9. Georgia On My Mind
  10. Motherless Child
  11. You Are My Sunshine
  12. Autumn Leaves
  13. I’ll Be Seeing You
  14. Twinkle
Mood Swings is scheduled to be released on August 16, 2019.

No comments:

Post a Comment