Vinnie Paolizzi - The Vinnie Paolizzi LP
Vinnie Paolizzi is a singer-songwriter who carves his rootsy, soulful sound from the same bedrock as Rodney Crowell, Hayes Carll, Steve Earle, and Guy Clark. He cut his teeth playing the bars and dives of Philadelphia prior to moving to Nashville five years ago. A testimony to his good reputation from spells as sideman for Britney Spencer and others, along with numerous songwriter nights and co-writing with like-minded Music City writers, this debut full-length album is a bracing blend of captivating songs and perceptive honesty, seasoned with a dash of hope, that is ultimately reassuring; and a little uplift is always welcome. From the songwriting through to the inspired playing to the gorgeous production, this is an album to cherish and treasure and merits listening to over and over and over again. Its juxtaposition of artful calm with immersive exhilaration is especially stirring. Still, Vinnie’s skills as both an instrumentalist and a songwriter can’t be written off as merely fanciful indulgence or as an attempt at simply sharing some casual conceits. Listening to this music feels like catching your balance on a beam: a totter followed by a firmness of feet and flood of relief.
He opens with Proud Of What I Did Today, a top-down road-tripper of an easy rocker—the kind of song heard as the credits roll, our protagonist more than happy to be a ‘regular Joe.’ I just love the line: ‘I used to climb the ladder chasing Mr Jones but I got sick of climbing’ … heading nowhere in particular, content with each daily achievement, rather than worrying about what others have or don’t have. Things take an even more personal turn on Left My Heart Below as we hear him duetting sweetly with Meg McRee, enhanced with a catchy rhythm and inventive guitar melody to accompany them. Another highlight track, centred on change, absence, and starting over, If It Would Only Rain, begins with little more than muted percussion, tinkling piano and poignant singing, progressing in increments with bursts of guitars, and the harmony vocals of Adam Hood on the refrain, while Vinnie’s sad-tinged vocal outlines the pain of a life-changing break-up.
Driven by an urgent groove, As Far As Goodbye Goes sees him wrestling with loss as he considers pursuing his elusive lover down highway 81 through the mountains. An immediately appealing bit of twangy country-rock, with Vinnie’s voice in the centre surrounded by vibrant electric guitars and keyboards. The bluesy It Ain’t Easy opens languidly with strains of lackadaisical guitars and yawning organ, blossoming into choruses on which Vinnie and co-writer Ben Chapman join forces in a chorus that would be at home in a church or a dingy bar. His matter-of-fact delivery gives the song a compelling believability as he outlines the struggles of trying to make it in the fickle music business as he expresses empathy for others in the same boat. He closes the album with the forward-looking optimism of Ahead Of Me. An almost tranquil masterpiece that leaves you speechless with a story of struggle and indifferent fate, only to retreat from the brink, in a determined ode to resilience and new beginnings. It’s all the same, it’s always shifting and it never gets boring, even for a minute. These are sounds you can wrap yourself up in like a warm blanket … homey and well-lived-in, and the lyrics are honest in a wide depiction of moods. A record that is subtly cathartic, a jewel to revisit again and again.