Artist: Bill Scorzari
Album: Through These Waves
Label: Self Released
Release Date: 03/10/2017
One of 2017’s best albums so far comes from New York-based Bill Scorzari, an unfamiliar name to me until now. This is Bill’s sophomore release. What a revelation! Assemble some familiar names like Joachim Cooder, Will Kimbrough, Kim Richey, and producer Jonah Tolchin, among an impressive cast, and you’ll get my attention. The crisp, organic interplay of both acoustic and electric instruments perfectly frame Scorzari’s weathered, raspy voice that many have described as “singular” or ’idiosyncratic.” Just to give you some clues, head in the direction of Tom Waits or Malcolm Holcombe. Scorzari’s voice is in that neighborhood but still stands apart. And, then there are his thoughtful, cinematically shaped songs that continue to resonate after repeated listens. Yes, this is a “must hear” for singer-songwriter aficionados.
The album of a dozen originals was recorded over 12 days in East Nashville, with 16 musicians recruited by Tolchin and engineer Billy Bennett. Tolchin says about Scorzari: “One of the greatest songwriters I’ve ever heard.” Bennett described the sessions this way, “There were humbling moments of marvel for me during the process, as the tremendous cast of musicians populated Bill’s emotional landscapes beautifully.” Scorzari echoes, “The experience was surreal…transformative…unifying…effortless.”
There’s a teasing, rolling, peaceful into to the first song, “A Dream of You,” that sets kind of a solemn, dreamy atmosphere for what follows. The tempo perks up with “A Brand New Deal,” as fiddle, banjo, and mandolin join in. The third track, “Shelter from the Wind,” has the line from the album’s title and is simply one of the strongest songs I’ve heard in some time. It is intimate tune written during a weeklong downpour of rain, in a single chair, in an empty room. Danny Roaman’s slide guitar and Will Kimbrough’s understated piano form the backdrop for Bill’s desperate vocal. “Hound Dog Diggin’” is arresting in a different way. The sizzling tune has the musicians recreating the sound of a hound dog. Scorzari describes it, “…it was almost prophetic how everyone in the studio immediately brought that same intensity to this recording…Brent Burke plays some of the best dobro I’ve ever heard, and Laur Joamets added two incredible electric guitar parts to Danny Roaman’s already amazing slide work. Matt Murphy’s bass line just jumps and Joachim Cooder’s drums snap and thump just so great! They all just blew this song up.”
Other highlights include Kim Richey’s duet vocal on the rhetorically existential “Holy Man,” Annie Johnson’s duet on the tender “More of Your Love,” and Bill’s emotionally moving “I Can Carry This” and “It’s Time.” Despite the struggles that Scorzari writes about, his real messages seem to be resilience, hope, and gratitude. This is epitomized in the closer, “Riptide,” accented by Cooder’s cymbal touches and Tolchin’s electric guitar sounds. Interestingly enough, this little anecdote serves as great indicator into how much care went into this effort. Bill recollects, “As fate would have it, we discovered a creaky old chair on the patio just outside the studio. I rolled it up to the console and engineer Billy Bennett put a microphone to it and recorded the sounds as I rocked back and forth. With a little studio magic Billy made it sound like a big wooden boat drifting on the waves of the ocean. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the album.”
You need to hear this album! I can’t stop listening to it.