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The Graham Weekly Album Review #1615

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Joe LoStritto: Good Company
by George Graham

(Independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 10/13/2010)

Acoustic music is seeing a revival through a new generation of musicians who are absorbing traditional sounds and reshaping them. The usual source for that traditional influence is the Appalachian and Southern folk sounds that were also the basis for a good part of the 1960s folk scene. But there is also a long history of acoustic folk music in the African American tradition that led to the blues and eventually to rock and roll. This week, we have a guitarist and songwriter who turns to the latter traditions for an upbeat blend that draws on blues, jazz and old novelty songs as the inspiration for his original music. He is Joe LoStritto, and his new CD is called Good Company.

A Long Island resident, Joe LoStritto is not exactly one of the 20-somethings that are part of the new folk revivalists, but a veteran artist who has performed with a number of players such as jazz guitar virtuoso Frank Vignola, trumpet player Peter Ecklund and others. His CD liner notes relate the story of his first gig in the late 1960s as a 13-year-old making about $2.50 and having his $20 microphone stolen. His CD booklet notes refer to his passion for making music -- and doing surfing -- and how making one's way in the world can keep you from those things. So one can infer that he probably does something else to make a living, He makes specific reference to some of the players -- the "good company" on his CD -- being part-time musicians. But he has assembled a very good cast who join him on his eclectic musical opus.

LoStritto is a tasteful guitarist who plays mainly acoustic guitars, including conventional and resonator guitars, and favors a sound that evokes an era before electric blues. He is a rather appealing, appropriate-sounding vocalist who resembles a slightly gruffer Steve Forbert. He is joined by a variable group that includes the usual drums and bass, played by Chris Marshak and Paul Ossola respectively plus keyboards and even some horns. One player I recognized was Barry Mitterhoff, the mandolinist who was with Tony Trischka's Skyline group. The music is all-original, but most of it sounds as if it could have been written in the 1930s with the bluesy, swingy acoustic sound that evokes that era.

Leading off the fairly generous 13-track CD is Midnight Radio Caravan, which sums up the texture of the CD with its old-time blues sound. An interesting addition is the fiddle played by Bob Mastro. <<>>

Also with some intriguing musical ingredients is Lost Behind the World. It's a kind of a lament on the state of the world. It includes an accordion that somehow gives hints of a kind of Eastern European sound. <<>>

Evoking a more traditional sound instrumentally is She's One of Those, but the composition itself could be a strong rocker for an electric band. <<>>

The Original Blue Law Chasers is one of the highlights of the CD, with its jazz-era sound. There are some added horns to complete the package. <<>>

Also with a kind of old-time sound is Messed Up Kid, which features LoStritto on slide-style resonator guitar. The lyrics seem a bit more contemporary than the style of the music, but it works very well. <<>>

There is one instrumental, a guitar duet with both guitars played by LoStritto. The piece is called appropriately Baja Aloha, which incorporates both some Latin American influence and the Hawaiian slack-key style. <<>>

Another of the more eclectic tracks in called Up from the Swamp, which has a sound that implies the location, but somehow it doesn't come together as well as some of the others. <<>>

LoStritto does a number of songs whose lyrics regret the state of the world. Marissa Lynn is an easy-going piece, a kind of bluesy tune addressed to a young girl. But it also takes a jaundiced view of the state of affairs. <<>>

The CD ends with its title track, a charming song that celebrates both the people and music as being "good company."

Long Island guitarist and singer-songwriter Joe LoStritto's new CD Good Company is another one of the seemingly increasing number of recordings by artists evoking the pre-rock era with acoustic instrumentation, but doing new original songs. LoStritto is a tasteful, versatile, fairly understated guitarist who nicely evokes that musical era with the help colleagues with a similar musical bent. His music is sometimes a cross between a contemporary singer-songwriter and a country-blues revivalist, but it's a nice mix and all the songs have something to commend them.

Our grade for sound quality is an A-minus. The acoustic instrumentation is nicely recorded, and the drums have a pleasingly intimate sound. Prominent neo-folk producer Ben Wisch was the mix engineer. But it's the same old story of trying to play loudness war against rock CDs with this acoustic music. The laid-back musical mood suffers with the volume compression cranking things up.

With a good number of groups providing their spin on music influenced by old-time folk styles, it's nice to hear some new music drawing on the old blues styles of the same era.

(c) Copyright 2010 George D. Graham. All rights reseved.
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