Jo Henley’s New Album Review “Burning down the Dark”

October 28, 2016

Uncategorized

benlee3

Burning Down the Dark

The latest and perhaps the greatest Jo Henley album to date. (And I will always call them albums) Campolieto authors a novel  on this one, bringing to life  characters lost in all levels of depression and angst. Campolieto’s new sketches are brilliantly illustrated by the unleashed strings of master guitar maker and player, Ben Lee. Tim Lynch pushes the faders at The Recording Studio in New York  producing nine  highly polished gems of music and literature in this epic New Roots release.  The album unveils rock classics, bluegrass standards and endearing sad songs that will manipulate your emotions and stimulate your imagination for years to come.

The opening scene is right out of an action thriller.

Burning down the Dark.” Dancing keys, static, feedback and the analog crackle of a vintage amp  ignite  the data fuse  in the brain giving a brief warning benlee2to  the on coming “slew of despond” like fouled syntax that are about to deluge the mind and spirit.  Out of nowhere Ben Lee’s  heavy metal dyad along with the  legendary  Tony Markellis’s bass, floods the speakers and launches the listener into a full blown musical angst cloaked in this heavy duty  new roots rock score.  Burning down the Dark  launches  the album out of the gate  with  instrumental language depicting the powerful and devastating effects of the sudden onslaught of anxiety.  The mastery of guitarist  Ben Lee is showcased in this hard driving rock anthem incorporating Lee’s  entire guitar collection  including a lap steel and his amazing signature hand made  Lee guitar original. Tortured strings, intoxicating high volume feedback and jarring sound affects evolve  with world class riffs and distortion to create a hauntingly familiar  feel that falls somewhere between a Three Doors Down ballad  and a Steely Dan record yet remains completely original and fresh.  Campolieto harnesses his wordsmith genius and puts together perhaps the rocking-est Jo Henley song to date.  Burning down the dark is no easy task in the mind or the studio. A super song for the ages. An instant favorite that begs to be played at a 100,000 watts in front of a crowd of ten thousand frenzied fans.  Burning down the dark illustrates the human  angst  with words and music and  then relieves all  in one fell swoop. A stellar rock and roll standard.

Ghost between my bones. This live-show favorite  decked out with cosmetics from the studio surgeon,  master recording artist, Tim Lynch, at The Recording Company in New York creates one of the best Jo Henley tunes ever. Campolieto’s way with words is nowhere demonstrated better than this metaphorical wonder. “Gutted to the studs I’m caving in” is a great line that describes the utter despair and emotional injury to this character who is reaching out for understanding amidst a cloud of  futility  .  Feeling as worthless as “a missing page from a missing book” yet dressed in great rock and roll riffs, rolling bass lines and habitual chorus. A house of cobwebs,  boarded up windows and ghosts  barely held up  by a skeleton frame  are the vivid and brilliant metaphors of a broken mind, soul and body. Ben Lee colors in the sketch with an uplifting major key that provides the perfect cover this  brutal lament in disguise.

Running Around. A brand new catchy,   old school classic rock song that for me  illustrates the endless running of the mind in times of anxiety. The repeated hook “you can’t stop running around” finds it’s way into your wheelhouse on the very first play. 70′s style beat and rhythm along with some of Campolietos best vocals to date makes you think you’ve known this song your whole life. Hints of  Huey and Petty resonate on the palate  as Campolieto  rolls through the heavy lyrics with a sure fired live show party dance tune . With this one. as is often the case with Campolieto, the boy/ girl simplicity of the prose is merely a facade camouflaging the underlining pain with muse and enthusiasm.   This is a Jo Henley song like no other I can recall. Running Around is a hit in every sense of the word and the only song that I know where  Campoleilto  ads in a perfectly timed   “ooh” and an “ahh” to his vocal repertoire. Awesomeness.

The Sun that Round me Rolled. A song taken from a line in the famous Poe poem comes to life in this addictive  lament. After a hundred plays I’m convinced this is  one of the most beautiful songs I’ve  ever known, right up there with   Van Morrison’s “Just like Greta.” Steel guitar wails with a Ben Lee  island accent sets the melancholy mood in the spirit of Edgar as Campolieto exhales out the the line  ”Morning breaks in blue.” Your head falls back on your shoulders as your eyes draw closed and  you are engulfed in the perfect instrumental and  lyrical craftsmanship that slips you  into a trance .Gently flowing rivers of  flowing sax, dream like riffs ,chords and studio polish give this song a certain perfection that I can’t fully explain. I imagine it being played at the Spire  Center with Campolieto at the piano under one smokey blue spotlight with the rest of the sanctuary  darkened.

When Summer Ends. Another great release. I’m reminded of Streisand’s “I stayed at the Fair too long” Campelito’s masterful prose and dialect  manipulations  describe the end of youth, the despair of failure and the utter futility of chasing elusive dreams and the ever moving goalpost of achievement. The character appears disillusioned and broken in disappointment as his midway slips into irrelevance and he goes past peak while the fans go their own way leaving him alone in dread with his side show.  The carnival barker  .succumbs to his disappointment and resigns his will. “Tonight is not tomorrow but tomorrow’s coming soon” again illustrates the dread of running out of lifetime with unattainable dreams and unrealistic goals. I’m reminded of Bob Dylan’s line “it’s not dark yet but it’s getting there” Ben Lee carries the tune along on soothing steele guitar.

Sun Dogs A  year or two  ago Jo Henley posted an impromptu video of this song on facebook  while it was only moments old. Campolieto and Lee were sitting on a log by a river and gave birth to this dark character and his riverside ballad.  Somber harmonica, acoustic chords and encrypted lyrics tell the tale of a dark and dangerous man  living through the aftermath of a past horrendous sin. (At least I think it does)Like Jo Henley’s “Tears On My Sleeve” Campolieto goes deep into the psychic of a hardhearted killer as he describes and  confesses his crimes to the listener. Vivid imagery, soothing vocals and forensic details make this mysterious prose intriguing and highly  appealing and sets the stage for a new Jo Henley character , Cara Lee.

“Cara Lee” A foot stomping bluegrass classic complete with banjo and a heavy presence of the regions number one mando/fidlle player, Jordan Santiago. Santiago, the star of the “Jo Henley Live at the Spire” album infuses this score with his signature  brand of picking that is second to none in the business.  Drummer Mike Dingley   leaves his marks on the skins from the file  on this song  with his distinctive, quick tapping, back beat percussion that is the only deviation from pure bluegrass. I was once told that Bluegrass music is about broken hearts and body bags, this one fits the bill. After several plays I discovered  ”Cara Lee” is a first person  account of the brutal murder described in the previous song, “Sun Dogs.” Cara Lee is the name  of the main character’s victim in the Sun Dog murder. He  torments, stalks and finally kills this small town girl when she tries to escape after years of resistance to his advances. Detailed accounts of the twisted decades long obsession of Cara Lee by this dark character are spelled out in an ingenius economy of words in this bluegrass gem. Take my interpretation with a grain of salt . I don’t pretend to have a line on the genius’s intent.

benlee1Backdraft  The binary child of Burning down the Dark in  2.5 minutes of Jo Henley mastery. Ben Lee again wins the fight for the faders on this jam of doubt and unbelief  perfectly in this pleasing reprise.  A swift and serious new standard that gives a brief showcase of the Jo Henley band’s ability to jam. Anyone who has ever been to a Jo Henley show knows the depth and width of the bands abilities to jam. This is an excellent sampling. Campolieto repeats the lyrics to the title track only once and sets the stage for the next song on the album. Back draft is like the sinner in doubt of his creator reminded of his doubt of Truth. The very next song is the answer from that creator. But again, that is all subjective and open to interpretation.

 

I’m the light. For me, an epic declaration of literally Biblical proportions. In all of human history there is only one that said “I’m the light” and that through him all things were made, the waves, the sky, the rocks the clouds all of it all was made by him.  This firstborn of all creation was one hundred percent God according his word but also one hundred percent man. Campolieto goes where no man has gone before and embodies the preeminent king of the universe and  gives his  perspective from a place of carnality.  One of Jo Henley’s biggest and most powerful songs ever is the closing scene is this lifelong battle of the mind giving triumphant realization or perhaps delusion that somehow we are masters of our own destiny and that we, or at least the main character, can in fact Burn down the Dark of life through sheer human strength and triumphant  deceleration. Hayley Sabella’s  ”I am a man” comes to mind for me. Instrumentally rich and lyrically divine. Even  the written  prose stands on it’s own on plain paper  like a great timeless poem.   Campolieto meshes music, theology and literature like no other musician today. I’m the light, The road to Jericho and Better off with Him are  all Jo Henley songs that  ring eternal for this listener, even while knowing all too well that the author may have had something else in mind all together.

 

Andy Campolieto  songs  are  like musical novels with twists, turns, secret chambers and hidden staircases, moving  walls and doors that all need be pried  open through repetition and contemplation.The music is  bottomless in depth, infinite in interpretation and musically magnificent that creates a nearly opaque blind to the underlining misery.   Burning Down the Dark is  a clean, crisp, highly polished, professional  musical and literary product  that is among the best on the market today.

Support greatness, reward excellence and subsidize creativity by buying one or all of these great products to today at Jo Henley

http://www.johenley.com/

 

 Burning Down the Dark. I’m playing 5 or 6 instruments that you hear in the song at the same time… and the feedback craziness at the end was 2 tracks that I did each in 1 take. It was kind of a surreal experience being in the live room with 2 huge amps turned all the way up and me right in front of them holding the Lee guitar inches away to get that crazy feedback you hear. Pure adrenaline rush!

Ben Lee

 

I definitely would rather let others interpret songs.

Andy Campolieto.

 

bdd