Jay N. Miller
“I might say hopefulness is the dominant theme,” stated Melrose songwriter Mark Erelli of his new album. “It has a rock ‘n’ roll kind of format, however I need to transfer some hearts, and now have or not it’s an pleasant, entertaining expertise.”
There’s an interesting humility in that assertion, which could make it straightforward to miss the truth that Erelli is a world-class songwriter who creates music that issues.
Erelli, who has launched 13 albums of his personal, could also be higher identified for his lengthy collaboration with Stoughton hitmaker Lori McKenna, taking part in lead guitar in her band. However he is additionally been a prodigiously proficient songwriter himself, and he stated he’s excited to get again out onstage performing these new songs. Erelli will likely be fronting a quintet when he headlines The Crystal Ballroom in Somerville’s Davis Sq. on Friday night time.
We final talked with Erelli a few years in the past, when he was attempting to get out and carry out because the pandemic was winding down. His earlier album, “Blindsided,” had been launched in early 2020 simply as COVID-19 hit and put most reside music in mothballs. Again then, Erelli had talked in regards to the album and the way its songs confirmed his debt to Tom Petty’s sound, and the way a lot enjoyable he’d had recording it. However earlier than 2020 was over, that album title had assumed a sadly ironic tone. After experiencing some puzzling imaginative and prescient issues, Erelli discovered he had retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, a debilitating decline in imaginative and prescient with no remedy, and no precise prognosis. Erelli might ultimately lose his imaginative and prescient, however there was no agency timetable of how rapidly, or if that will be the ultimate outcome.
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Erelli threw himself into creating extra unique music, and devoted himself to recording much more of it at his house studio − his lounge. Initially he was taking part in all of the devices, and matching up the varied tracks, however he enlisted longtime cohorts Zachariah Hickman on bass and Dave Brophy on drums to offer a rhythm part.
The brand new album, “Lay Your Darkness Down,” was launched in February on Soundly Music and consists of 10 new songs, all that includes an inviting scaled-down rock sound. As a lyricist, Erelli makes a speciality of good lyrics that embody stick-in-your-head turns of phrase, but are relatable to each listener, for a marvelously accessible and affecting mix.
The album opens with “Break within the Clouds,” an effervescent folk-rocker whose optimism is palpable. It’s a very good appetizer for the remainder of the album, which delves into some deep emotional territory, however at all times returns to the theme and feeling of hope.
“I believe the primary line of that first track says all of it,” Erelli stated final week. “‘Alone ain’t no method to reside … if we survive, it will be collectively. …’ It’s a idea that’s so profound, and but so fundamental; we’re a social species. We should be collectively, and that is one thing the pandemic actually took away from us. For this type of storytelling that I do, an important a part of it’s having individuals witness the processing of feelings by music. It is a part of what makes us human. Having the ability to play these songs reside is what offers them wings.
“With my final file, ‘Blindsided,’ I by no means had an opportunity to essentially take it out on the highway and let these songs evolve,” Erelli stated. “When you are able to do that, the songs change and may turn into no matter they need to be on a given night time. The pandemic made that facet of the artwork really feel much less alive. Everybody heard the file, ultimately, but it surely took a pair years for the songs from ‘Blindsided’ to tackle their very own identities.
“This time I am dedicated to virtually instantly touring these songs, totally invested in taking part in them onstage each night time I can. It’s not straightforward. A variety of venues that performed essential roles in my profession are both out of enterprise now or in bother. Music followers’ habits have modified additionally, the place they do not appear to exit as a lot. In my expertise, it hasn’t been a case of audiences roaring again after the pandemic, and there are numerous causes like inflation or altering habits. However popping out of the pandemic, and my very own RP prognosis, I’ve felt the necessity to commit myself much more intensely to the reside efficiency expertise.”
The title lower to the brand new album is beautiful, a starkly evocative quantity paying homage to Bruce Springsteen’s legendary “Nebraska” album, however Erelli’s tune “Lay Down Your Darkness” is NOT about his personal imaginative and prescient loss. It’s reasonably an elegy of types to Justin Townes Earle, the proficient songwriter son of Steve Earle, who had his personal array of issues and succumbed to them in August 2020, at age 38. It’s a highly effective track about doing all of your finest and leaving your mark, and the way a lot somebody was cherished regardless of their demons. However Erelli had by no means met the youthful Earle.
“I began that track as a result of, particularly, I had been impressed by his passing,” Erelli stated. “It advanced right into a normal meditation on loss, at a time once I had skilled an enormous lack of my very own. It was a time of asking, ‘Who am I? Who was Justin?’ I did not know him, however I admired his work, and it was a meditation on how one thing like that impacts us. It’s at all times a heavy second once I play that track reside, a fairly highly effective second for lots of people, it seems. I simply hope I dealt along with his passing with a way of grace and respect.”
Erelli stated he would not know if Steve Earle or another family members have heard the tune, and he hasn’t tried to contact them. It’s merely his humble tribute to a fellow musician.
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McKenna had helped introduce Erelli to co-writing in the course of the pandemic, and considered one of their Zoom classes resulted in “You are Gonna Wanna Bear in mind This.” When Erelli had turned 40, a bunch of his fellow musicians threw a party-show for him, the place all of them carried out songs he’d written. The title was one thing McKenna had stated, pulling him apart and reminding him his associates have been giving him a memento second. On the file, the tune begins with a folk-music intimacy, however swells into room-filling rock.
“Lori likes to write down off of titles, taking a great phrase and turning it into an entire track,” Erelli stated. “We had a Zoom co-writing session, and I remembered what she’d informed me that night time of my fortieth birthday. I’ve come to like co-writing. Working with one other songwriter takes you to locations you by no means would have gone alone.”
The brand new album ends with a brightly rocking track, filled with pleasure regardless of admitting “the world’s gone loopy,” and “Love Wins within the Lengthy Run” is one other mission assertion for Erelli.
“It comes proper after ‘Lay Down Your Darkness’ on the file, and I could not depart individuals with the unhappy one,” Erelli stated. “I felt, particularly after my RP prognosis, that it was actually essential that this file not be a pity get together. The primary theme is hope and optimism and you’ll nonetheless discover pleasure and love in locations. It was essential to me to finish the album this fashion.
“I imagine that what I am doing now’s one of the best work I’ve ever completed. However, it’s inferior to what’s to return. I do not really feel as if I am the identical artist as I used to be earlier than RP, but it surely has opened my thoughts and senses to different methods and strategies of songwriting − given me an additional dimension. It appears like the beginning of a brand new highway, and I am sure one of the best work of my profession remains to be forward of me.”
Upcoming gigs: Ryan Montbleau Band, Rubblebucket and extra
THURSDAY: Goose, the jamband from Norwalk, Connecticut, headlines Roadrunner. Swedish songbird Tove Styrke sings sweetly at Brighton Music Corridor. Storage rockers King Tuff take over The Sinclair. British electro-pop star Elderbrook at Royale. Younger Nudy raps at The Paradise.
FRIDAY: The time period “iconoclastic Texas songwriter” is overused, however Bob Schneider embodies the outline, at Metropolis Vineyard. Rubblebucket will get down at Massive Evening Reside. Jawny, good friend of Doja Cat, brings his personal present to The Paradise. Hassle No Extra, a multistar tribute to the fiftieth anniversary of the Allman Brothers Band, that includes alumni together with Chuck Leavell, takes over The Orpheum Theatre. Sparrow Blue harmonizes on the South Shore People Music Membership’s present at First Parish in Duxbury. The reggaeton duo Jowell and Randy heats up MGM Music Corridor. Two up-and-coming native songsmiths when Sam Chase and Chelsea Berry do separate units at The River Membership Music Corridor. The Caribbean sounds of Ibeyi at Brighton Music Corridor. Comedian Lenny Clark has offered out his present at The Spire Heart. James McMurtry’s solo present at The Narrows Heart. Massive Dez and Sax Gordon rip it up at Boston Harbor Distillery.
SATURDAY: Popster Joshua Bassett at Massive Evening Reside. The Ryan Montbleau Band rocks at The Narrows Heart. Joe Musella’s Led Zep Tribute at Boston harbor Distillery. The soul and jazz of Oz Noy and the Ozone Squeeze at Metropolis Vineyard. Illusionist Lyn Dillies does her magic at The Spire Heart. Bearly Lifeless jams at The Sinclair. Songwriter/rapper Caye at Brighton Music Corridor. The Motion, reggae from South Carolina, at The Home of Blues. Do not forget the festive scene on the New England FreeJacks rugby tilt at Quincy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, with Booty Vortex topping a disco-flannel-themed day, with a chili contest additionally, and eventually a 4:30 p.m. sport towards the Dallas Jackals.
SUNDAY and past: Sunday night time, Royale is rocking with Oso Oso and Microwave. Monday, catch Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor and his Seventh Inning Stretch band, with cohorts like Ryan Montbleau, at Metropolis Vineyard. Tuesday: This is your likelihood to atone for post-punk from Belarus, as Molchet Doma invades Roadrunner. Wednesday, the elegant R&B of Jill Scott is at MGM Music Corridor.
Mark Erelli onstage
When: 8 p.m. March 24
The place: The Crystal Ballroom, 55 Davis Sq., Somerville
Information: 617-245-2900 or crystalballroomboston.com