Artist: Greg Loiacono
Album: Songs from a Golden Dream
Release Date: 09/23/2016
Here I find myself on somewhat less familiar territory. Yes, I’ve heard a few songs from Mother Hips, but I am actually more familiar with the band because some of the members, notably Tim Bluhm, backed by Nicki Bluhm as the Gramblers. In any case, that reference was close enough to interest in me in Mother Hips’ co-founder, Greg Loiacono’s first solo release. What a pleasant surprise it is! This is not your usual singer-songwriter fare, but rather a vibrant, dreamy psychedelic work full of well-constructed songs peppered with striking instrumentation in places. For example, the guitar solo in “Tell It to the Trees” is reminiscent of Richard Thompson. It’s not often one can make such a comparison. “Mahalia Mornings” has inventive pedal steel playing. Loiacono’s voice is rich, wide ranging and well suited to these tunes.
He paints his sonic journey filled with colorful imagery, delicate textures and straight ahead rock n’ roll. Along with Loiacono on vocals and guitars, the musicians include frequent cohorts Todd Roper (Cake, Chuck Prophet) and Scott Thunes (Frank Zappa, the Mother Hips, Fear) on drums and bass respectively, as well as Jackie Greene on the Hammond organ and Lefty Knight on pedal steel and sitar. Loiacono co-produced the record with long-time collaborator David Simon-Baker (Los Lobos, Jack Johnson, ALO, Mac Dre). “It wasn’t easy finding time to finish Golden Dream,” says Loiacono. His busy schedule with the Hips, solo performances and his family keep the man constantly on the move. “But making this album with such a fine group of people and with songs that mean so much to me has been one of the great pleasures of my musical life.”
The album is held together partly by “The Red Thread,” which appears in three very different sounding parts. “The Red Thread Part I (The Gloaming)” is a four- part-harmony stomp. Part two is an instrumental interlude, and the glorious Part three, “The Day’s Long Wind,” melds in some classical influences. Along the way, there are number of highlights including “Mahalia Mornings” (I just love the idea of he and his son alone listening to Mahalia Jackson). There’s the floating vibe of “Sunny Day Blues,” the laconic nature of “Bus Ride Blues,” and the rocking “Away from the Stones.”
In case you don’t immediately recognize his name, like me, here’s more. Loiacono is based out of Marin County, California. Loiacono plays guitar, sings and writes songs for Mother Hips, Sensations (his solo project that features a rotating cast of California’s elite bassists and drummers including Scott Thunes, Paul Hoaglin, Reed Mathis, Todd Roper and David Brogan) and Ball Point Birds (an acoustic duo) that he created with his musical brother, Tim Bluhm. When Loiacono is not on the road, recording or sitting in with friends around town, he brings a customized music group into Bay Area treatment Centers to help addicts recover from addiction and psychological disorders. Give kudos to Loiacono. Both his music and his sensibilities are on target.
– Jim Hynes