“The general theme of this record is trying to find balance in your life and being okay with decisions, mistakes, and even triumphs. Being satisfied with whatever world you’ve carved out for yourself. I talk about foundations or “home” a lot through this group of songs. I think everyone, at least myself, is trying to find that sense of “home” that you felt as a kid growing up in your childhood home. Trying to build something like that in my adult life has become more important, as the years have passed.”
I try hard to avoid the habit of reviewing albums that are released by friends from the Asbury Park music scene. That’s not to say that these albums aren’t worthy. In case you think it all ended with Bruce Springsteen, the fact is that there is some great music coming out of the Jersey shore these days. It’s just that as a card carrying part of that scene, I’m biased, and I would have a hard time saying anything negative about musicians who are my brothers and sisters in-arms.
Keith Monacchio is one of us. Despite the fact that he hails from Trenton, he was welcomed into the Asbury Park scene a few years ago, and he’s such a fine songwriter that no one is about to let him go. Keith made three albums with his band the Commons before going solo a couple of years ago. The last of these Commons albums, American Ghost, was one of the best albums of 2007, and the only “local” release to make my top ten list that year.
To say that Keith’s first solo album was anxiously awaited around these parts is something of an understatement. I’m pleased to say that The Long Evening more than lives up to all the heightened expectations. That said, it’s a real departure for Keith. On the Commons albums, especially American Ghost, Keith took a rather despairing look at the American landscape, The Long Evening is an album full of hope. It finds my friend Keith in a contented place in his life, and that makes me happy.
The new found optimism begins with the first song, “Novocain.” Love has come looking for our hero, but he’s been burned before, and he’s still wary. He begs for the Novocain to “make this heart numb.” But by the time “Indiana Jones” roles around, he’s trying to convince himself that when it comes to affairs of the heart, he is the equal of the legendary explorer.
The album’s centerpiece is “She Stumbles Gracefully,” a conversation between two people who have known heartbreak, but are trying to find a way to put it behind them and reach for love one more time. I’m glad Keith left this one to his voice and acoustic guitar. The song is so fully realized that it requires no embellishment whatsoever.
That’s what she said
Three times burned
And three times left for dead
Are you the one
With a miracle cure
Or just another one foot out the door
So, are you Superman
A white knight
A one man band
You gonna save the world for me
Do I seem helpless
Like a bitty baby bird
Think you can have me with some well placed words
My tower guards are sharpshooters
In case you’re wondering how it all turns out, “Altogether Happy” finds fears allayed and doubts overcome. By the time the album’s final song “Dirt and Sand” rolls around, there’s talk of building a house, and maybe even putting in a swimming pool.
Artists like Keith Monacchio inspire me. I don’t know if he’ll ever get rich, or famous beyond the city limits of Asbury Park and Trenton. I certainly hope so, but there are things that are more important. Among these things are having a consistent vision and staying true to it, and creating your art without giving the trappings of celebrity a moment’s thought. I hope you’ll support local music (even if it’s not local to you), by giving The Long Evening a chance. You can download the album from Keith’s website.