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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






NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.


"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!










Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


MUSIC

New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


THEATRE

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm







DANCE

PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


FILM

Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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