WUMB November Program Guide

A Couple of Albums on the Perry Radar

The other day, it just hit me. No wavering. No maybe this, maybe that. Certainly no six-of-one-half-dozen-of-the-other. I had to face the fact.

I just like this guy’s music.

This revelation occurred while I was hearing the new single from Hiss Golden Messenger, Domino (Time Will Tell). It’s funny how you can have a different response to a song when you hear it in a different place. I had heard and played the song before. And liked it, too. But something about hearing it on the car radio just brought me to that point. Something about the soul of his singing – the paraphrasing – along with the melodies, the bouncy piano licks, the coloring of the horns when he uses them. “He” in this case is M.C. Taylor, the primary creative force of Hiss Golden Messenger.

But that’s for one song. We recently had a music meeting. I was running a little late and got there in the middle of the new Hiss Golden Messenger album being previewed. I think we previewed about four tracks. And every one made me think, “You know, I just like this guy’s music.” This makes three straight Hiss Golden Messenger releases where a few songs from the album have really struck me. So yeah, I guess I just really like his music.

The new Hiss Golden Messenger album is called Hallelujah Anyhow.

On the Boston/Local music front, the Hank Wonder Trio have been gigging for the past year or two. Starting largely as a cover band, they were encouraged to do more originals after doing well in open mics. Maybe lead singer and chief songwriter Darren Buck was just hiding his craft. But he has burst out as an affecting songwriter.

They now add an upright bass to their mix and are just called Hank Wonder. And last year they got Charlie Rose to produce their debut album. If you are a fan of Barnstar, Rose Cousins, Aoife O’Donovan, Mark Erelli, Mike & Ruthy, and Elephant Revival (of which he is now a member), yes, that Charlie Rose.

I often worry that a band with dynamic live performances loses that spark, that character that made them stand out, when they are in the studio environment. I’ve heard it happen far too often. In this case, there is no need to worry.

Some of Hank Wonder’s merchandise describes them as “Soulful Americana.” That’s a very good description. As to their name, “Hank” comes from Williams. “Wonder” comes from Stevie. The band sounds like neither. If anyone, singer Darren Buck can do a Sam Cooke to knock the trees down (he can also cover Steve Perry the same way). My other worry for this band was that they would do a record that sounds like a good Sam Cooke wannabe album. They could easily do that. Thankfully they do not, although one song references Sam and finishes with a line from Cupid.

For the “Americana” portion of their sound, Hank Wonder has Annie Bartlett on fiddle. She adds a lot of body and flow to the melodies. On guitar, Mike Loria does some great acoustic picking as well as nice bluesy chops when you see the band live. On this record, he also rips out some really solid electric lead guitar work. Producer Charlie Rose adds his signature pedal steel work. Charlie is an amazing multi-instrumentalist (as I am not very coordinated, people like him really intimidate me!). Lead singer Darren Buck provides the “Soulful” side to Hank Wonder’s sound. He really is a dynamic soul singer. He goes from the restrained to the wide-open belter and in between. He also adds harmonica.

Speaking of “dynamic,” the songs on the album can go from happy to profoundly sad – sometimes one into the other. And the CD finishes with a song for your best friend. Or maybe it’s for you.

The new Hank Wonder album is called Little Mysteries. See them live, then pick up the CD.

~ Perry

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