Chris Conly. Love and Protest.
Chris Conly, 2013.
Chris Conly: http://music.chrisconly.com/
Chris Conly is a Brooklyn based singer song-writer, and member of the Chicken Barn Heroes, among other things. You can learn all about him and his inspiration on today’s artist interview with Chris Conly, and compare his solo work here to the group project, The Green EP, put out by Chicken Barn Heroes also on Ear to the Ground. I have to say right off the bat that I love albums done by one member of a band as a way to look at how a band shapes itself and how people change styles and accommodate others as a group compared to when they work alone. And “alone” or “solo” often isn’t quite what one would expect in music. It’s music- a form of communication and an art form- so “alone” is more of a relative term than an absolute; one person with an artistic vision as opposed to a large group dynamic. Both solo and group performances can lead to beautiful products, and getting a chance to pick apart those differences and similarities, and compare how the dynamics play out, is a refreshing chance to really think in depth about what one is hearing. Of course, this a musical review, not a thesis, so I’ll keep a lot of that analysis out of here, but feel free to use this as a jumping off point for that conversation to take place.
Love and Protest draws on similar sounds to Justin Townes Earle, and a tinge of Eric Clapton. It has a skillful execution and relevant themes, with a mixing of hard-edged sound and thoughtful lyrics. Bourbon and the Bed starts out the album at full-steam ahead driving energy, interspersed with moments of calm in the middle of the storm. Talented back-up vocal artists round out the track and ground it in the tradition of much jazz-rock classics. Bringing the tempo back down some while keeping the technical details is Hollywood at my Backdoor. This piece is more vocally driven and story-minded, with instruments providing the foundation work. Meter Man takes a less modern sound and returns to the classic boom-chuck of old country greats, although the writing is perfectly put to concerns of today. Stories of economic woe and concerns for the future are universal themes in the history of folk, but Meter Man discusses the level of inequality currently seen in the US in a manner similar to Bob Dylan tunes in the 1960’s and less known songs of the 1930’s. Following this is a romantic sounding ballad, Top Shelf Tina, with twang and nostalgic sorrow for a woman who’s left her roots only to return to them in moments of emotional need. The reminder that we all have weaknesses and all need the support of a familiar place is timely and well taken to heart. The background chatter adds a comfortable note, as if a bar tender is responding to a question from a patron. Satisfied closes out the album in a Stevie Ray Vaughn style- gritty and noisome- but with ivories jangling away to accompany everyone else. The tenor of the words and the happy tone of the music give a carefree attitude to serious skill.
Love and Protest is a sound banquet, drawing from common themes and styles, but put together in a revamped whole that is a pleasure to hear. Its diversity and depth are earcandy not often found, so have a little dessert today with this album.
Personnel: Chris Conly (Lead Vocals, Guitar, Maracas), Brad Maestas (Electric Bass), Adam Minkoff (Drums, Piano & Organ), Mike Flannery (Vocals, Tambourine), Brittany Anjou (Piano), Clara Lofaro (Vocals), Abby Ahmad (Vocals), Phil Sterk (Pedal Steel)
Tracks: Bourbon and the Bed, Hollywood On My Doorstep, Meter Man, Top Shelf Tina, Satisfied