“John Street” is an extremely special and well-made project that is by far the best album Mike Montrey ever has made, including the two with Water
I’ve always liked how Mike Montrey Band can get soulful and funky like Prince, then downright down home, like Neil Young, depending on the track and its arrangement. Montrey does that with his new masterpiece, “John Street,” but particularly flexes his Young muscles with the help of sought-after session player Dave Pearlman on pedal steel and dobro. An exceptional lead guitarist in his own right, Montrey leaves most of the lead parts to Pearlman and focuses on some tasty pickin’ ‘n’ strummin’ on acoustic and the best use of a whistle since Otis Redding’s “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”
A great deal of help also comes from two Grammy winners: producer-engineer Jim Scott (Wilco, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Santana, and Tedeschi Trucks Band) and keyboardist John Ginty (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Citizen Cope). With his signature Hammond B3, Ginty helps Montrey pour his soul into this record, while Scott also gets fantastic performance out of longtime Montrey bassist Anthony Duca and co-vocalist Jen Augustine and new drummer Rob Smith. He weaves them all together nicely with a wonderful sense of timing that heightens the emotions of each of the songs, such as with the steel guitar and whistle that come in after a cacophony that seems like a false ending on “Slow and Easy.” Scott also contributes a fun toy piano on tracks.
The many excellent duets and counter harmonies Augustine offers on about half of the 11-song album is another high point. Her smoky alto complements Montrey’s soulful, scratchy falsetto beautifully, especially on the fun-hearted “Coffee and Suspenders,” the call-and-response of “Everytime the Sun Begins to Show,” the aforementioned “Slow and Easy,” the Neil Young-inspired “Aether and Chaos, Beauty and Wine,” and “I Am a Freight Train,” which recalls Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.
“John Street” also features some of Montrey’s strongest lyrics, such as on the opening angst of “Blanket Full of Dust”: “So can you hear me now, I’m screaming with my voice worn down. My soul is tired, but it’s full of hope, and leaps and bounds. I need a railing to hold onto before I hit the ground. I need a chisel and some sandpaper to scrape away the rust and stagger towards my blanket full of dust.”
I also like the visual line in “Coffee and Suspenders”: “Like chameleons in the forest haze, we’re dancing in our own charade, disguised in the afternoon.” And then there’s a harvest of gold in two Neil Young-inspired tracks. In the aforementioned “Aether,” Montrey shares, “Sometimes I think that it’s all just a sham/Hour by hour, minute by minute, through each grain of sand/One second you’re older, one second you told her, one second you ran/And in an instant he grew up, before you knew what, who, where or when.” And then in “For Her,” he pines, “You leave that window closed for rain, always ready for the doom, impending pain. But you left your dreams outside to rot, like it or not.”
This is the first album of the year to make me think about my top 10 list. I am very confident that “John Street” will sit there all year long. Check it out with Mike Montrey Band’s new live pedal steel player, Steve Benson, when they celebrate the release of “John Street” on March 2 at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park opening for Gregg Allman Band guitarist Scott Sharrard and March 3 at John & Peter’s in New Hope. Tour dates will include March 14 and 15 at SXSW in Austin; March 23 and 24, Cape May Singer-Songwriter Festival; March 28, Bitter End, New York City; April 26, Elbo Room, Chicago, and May 25, Shakedown Bar, Vail, Colo.
State Theatre Presents Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet Tour (NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Diana Krall live in concert as part of her Turn Up The Quiet World Tour on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from $43-$153.50. This concert will feature songs from Diana Krall’s stunning new album, Turn Up The Quiet, out now on Verve Records as well as a mix of some fan favorites. Kean Stage Presents The Manhattan Transfer (UNION, NJ) -- Going strong after more than 45 years, Grammy Award winner The Manhattan Transfer, with tenor vocals from Kean University alumnus Alan Paul '71, will captivate Kean Stage audiences with their distinctive four-part harmonies at Enlow Recital Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm.3rd Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival (JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The North Jersey Indie Rock Festival returns to Jersey City on October 6. Presented by Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids, the festival includes acts from those labels and Little Dickman Records, Rhyme and Reason Records, and State Champion Records. The festival takes place at White Eagle Hall. Doors are at 4:00pm and the music starts at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.Bobby McFerrin To Kick Off the 125th Season Of Princeton University Concerts (PRINCETON, NJ) -- On Friday, September 21, 2018 at 7:30pm, 10-time GRAMMY award-winning artist Bobby McFerrin launches Princeton University Concerts’ (“PUC”) 125th Anniversary Season in a special event performance at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. The concert will feature McFerrin alongside members of his a cappella group Gimme5 in a program titled “ Circlesongs ” -- an evening of spontaneous music-making through shared improvised sound, in a language growing out of tribal chant and sacred music. The Dryden Ensemble Presents Bach Cantata Fest (PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Dryden Ensemble will present a Bach Cantata Fest on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00pm at Miller Chapel, located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free to students with an ID. They may be purchased at the door or online at www.drydenensemble.org.
“Here’s Lucie!” Lucie Arnaz LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center Even though the weather outside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center is cloudy with some light intermittent drizzle this Wednesday, September 12, 2018 afternoon, the venue’s stage is still shining brightly with talent thanks to a live performance by television, film, and stage actress/singer Lucie Arnaz!Mike Aiken Talks About Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch At RVCC (BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- Raritan Valley Community College presents Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22. The three-day event will feature a number of different musical shows by Mike Aiken, as well as other solo artists and groups. Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty LIVE! at the Newton Theatre It’s a warm but lovely Aug. 23, 2018 evening here in Newton, NJ. After enjoying some hand-dipped Cliff’s ice cream from the window at Hayek Market, we march up Spring Street looking forward to hearing some world-class jazz at one of the Garden State’s favorite concert venues, The Newton Theatre.An Interview with Bernie Williams Four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist and composer Bernie Williams will perform with his All-Star Band at the Jersey Shore this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at The Grunin Center of the Arts in Toms River, NJ!“Unleash the Love” The Beach Boys LIVE! at The Great Auditorium So what were you doing at 8:18 pm on 8/18/18?
Well, we’re not sure what you were up to, but we know that on that hot August night, we were listening to “America’s Band” — The Beach Boys — and watching them “Unleash the Love” while performing their incredible catalog of hits at Ocean Grove NJ’s Great Auditorium!