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CD REVIEW: Shades Of The Prison House by Anthony D'Amato

By Gary Wien


Rating 4 stars (out of 4)

I once read that no matter how old we are we will always write with the point of view that we had when we were 25. If that's true then Anthony D'Amato will have a long and amazing career because he gets the world better now than most people will ever know and he's not even close to 25 yet.

Anthony released the brilliant CD, "Shades of the Prison House" over the summer. This is truly the work of an artist coming into his own. Recorded in a dorm room at Princeton University, the CD is full of incredibly memorable and insightful lines like "I love you now, but I doubt that I always will" and "was that a shooting star that left such an ugly scar across the sky." The songs feature lyrics which blend poetry with catchy folk-rock guitar. The music has more of an indie/Conor Oberst vibe than a Greenwich Village/Dylan vibe. This is modern folk rock at its best. In fact, it's been nearly five years or so since the last album to come across my path to hit me so hard. "Shades of the Prison House" has been in my iPod ever since the first listen and I doubt it'll leave anytime soon.

With this disc Anthony joins the upper echelon of songwriters from New Jersey; a list that includes names like Val Emmich, Keith Monacchio, and Rick Barry - all of whom wrote masterful tunes before they turned 25 as well, so maybe there is something to that premise after all.

I've always hated trying to describe music and comparing who an artist sounds like, thankfully with records like this one you can let the lyrics do the talking for you. If you are a fan of intelligent lyrics, brilliant imagery, and find yourself getting lost in the tunes of artists like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, or Conor Oberst than give this disc a spin on your iPod. You won't be disappointed.

The record kicks off with a wonderful little acoustic tune that instantly grabs your attention with the line, "Oh, what liars / young liars we've become." For some reason that line is the perfect way to start off this disc. The record isn't just a collection of tunes, but an entranceway into the mind of a young poet who has experienced life far beyond his years.

My favorite track on the disc is the absolutely beautiful "Skeleton Key". The imagery on this tune took me back to the first time I heard "I Know It's Over" by The Smiths. The song begins with Anthony singing the lines:

"Sometimes at night when the weather turns nice
I like to make my way home
Walk through the woods where they buried my friends
Dig up and dance with their bones"

On Anthony's previous records such as "East Avenue" and "The Ghost EP" his talent as a storyteller was already apparent. The difference on "Shades of the Prison House" is a remarkable leap in his ability to craft memorable hooks and choruses. "Skeleton Key" - the only song previously released by Anthony - is a good example of a chorus I found myself singing for days after the first listen. The words were instantly carved into my brain as great songs have a tendency to do. In a strange way, the song hits me like a classic Irish drinking song.

"So, I treat myself
like I'm going to hell
I keep turnin' the skeleton key.
I don't lose sleep
Over hearts I can't keep
I take what I want and I leave…
I slip out the back like a thief"

"Skeleton Key" has to be my favorite over all, but honestly the record doesn't contain a weak tune. Each song has what I like to call "killer" lines. Those are the ones every writer wishes they wrote themselves. The kind of line that makes you just stop, pay close attention, and raise your glass in admiration. It's rare when I think a disc contains killer lines in every song, and this one does

Here are just a few of the lines that stand out for me.

*********************************************
From -- "Ashes to Ashes"
"If hell is other people, I wonder what does that make us
Someday when we're older. You said our hearts would start to rust
‘Cause ashes lead to ashes, dust don't turn to dust

It's hard to tell just how you feel without my hands on you"

*********************************************
From - "NYC Song"
"I got pills to make me sleep and
I've got friends who grind them up for me
And they smil while they grind their teeth
And live in vivid dreams.
Hangin' on to a thin, think line
Consciousness in a cheap red wine
Well, I told you once, I told you twice
Swore by the light in your eyes tonight... New York

*********************************************

From -- "Whippoorwill"
"I love you now, but I doubt that I always will"

*********************************************

From - "So Down and So Out"
Call me a son, call me a son,
call me a son of a bitch for the things I said
*********************************************

From - "Hank Williams Tune"
"Let me crawl through the cracks in your window
I'll be the light of the moon
Let me die in the back of your Camaro
I'll be your Hank Williams Tune
Lay me down Sister of Mercy
You're such a hard heart of stone
Let me slip my hands into your pocket
I'll be your Leonard Cohen poem."
*********************************************

Many people along the Jersey Shore have known Anthony for years as a music journalist. In fact, he started writing for my website when he was probably just 14 or 15 years old. I could tell then that he had the love of music flowing through his veins and the will to make it in the industry. It's an interesting life being a music journalist, but it's not an easy one and it's certainly not for everyone. When I listen to "Shades of the Prison House" I always smile thinking that it's nice Anthony will have his own music to fall back on should the writing gig not work out! But somehow, I think he's going to be fine with whichever path he takes.



For more by this author, click here






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(NEWARK, NJ) -- Bright Brain Productions, the leading entertainment company based in California announced the “Arijit Singh LIVE Tour” in 12 cities all across the U.S. This is the first of its kind and largest tour done by Arijit Singh or any Indian artist. The tour beings on April 5 and travels through major U.S. cities culminating on May 5.  The tour stops at Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday, April 13 at 7:00pm.
Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show.  For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27
(BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.
McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.


Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.
Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center
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Event calendar
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


MUSIC

John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


MISC

The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

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