By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: May 11, 2010
Only grownups buy CDs of popular music now. Research tells us that kids know better --- they sample a CD, find the two or three songs that sound like keepers, and download them for a buck a shot.
Yeah, but what if a CD came along with every track a winner?
What if, as you listened, you could imagine playing this music for decades --- cranking it high in the car, using it as background music for parties, letting it keep you company as you work?
And even better, what if you knew that this CD would never get the attention it deserved and you would have whatever status accrues to the cool kid with the secret treasure?
Feeling me? Then waste not a minute --- order Peter Wolf’s first CD in eight years, Midnight Souvenirs, right now. [If you can’t wait, there’s an MP3 download.]
Want proof? Let’s start with the CD’s first song, “Tragedy.” How can you not love a CD that starts with a self-loathing guy singing:
I think I won the Fool’s Award today
The way I made my baby cry
I can’t believe the stupid things I say
Without one good reason why
Soon enough, Wolf is joined by Shelby Lynne, whose laser of a voice has been wonderfully aged in whisky. She’s not “company” for Wolf --- she’s the love object, and just as distraught as he is. When she sings “no” nine times in a row, that is credibility. But don’t take my word for it --- watch them doing "Tragedy," just for themselves in a Green Room.
From there, it’s Variety Hour. Wolf co-authored 12 of the 14 songs, but you’d swear none of them is new --- though original, the music has the authority of classic R&B, old-time country, Philly soul, Mississippi cotton-picker blues and more. The musicians are the finest that money can’t buy. The guests include Neko Case and Merle Haggard.
Who is Peter Wolf? Oh, you know him. He was the lead singer of the J. Geils Band, the home rockers of Boston and a jillion jukeboxes. He moved on to a solo career and, in 2002, released a CD called Sleepless, which is just as good as “Midnight Souvenirs.” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Steve Earle sang backup on that one, and guess what --- they didn’t suck.
Long time between releases. That’s what happens to great musicians these days. Kudos to Wolf for persisting. More praise for thinking in terms of CDs rather than random downloads. And a big shout-out to Kenny White --- the extravagantly ironic singer-songwriter and killer keyboard player --- who produced both “Sleepless” and “Midnight Souvenirs.”