Hard Road Home
This is singer-songwriter Bill Curreri’s third album, his most ambitious and thoughtfully rendered album to date. And, what a circuitous route to reach this point! Raised in Greenwich Village during the socially turbulent 1960’s, Bill always dreamed of someday being recognized as an accomplished singer-songwriter. But as often happens, reality intervened causing Bill to walk away from a major record label contract in order to fulfill his responsibilities to family and friends. But beginning eight years ago, after pursuing successful careers in advertising and academia, Bill is gaining considerable acclaim as a singer-songwriter, realizing his dream some 40 years later.
His previous two Long Time Gone and Son Of An American Dream received both considerable airplay and earned him award. Curreri performs with a seven-piece band and brings a large sound to his recordings, that belie the Greenwich Village folk roots. Yet, he sees it all as part of a bigger picture, “The creative culture that has defined Greenwich Village throughout most of the 20th century still impacts my life today. Whether it’s a smooth jazz guitar lick spilling out on to the early-morning street during the raucous “Roaring 20’s”…the incessant beat of a bongo drum in the middle of the night accompanying a young, introspective poet of the 1950’s ‘Beat Generation’ … or the strum of an acoustic guitar and Celtic-inspired vocal harmonies that came to define The Village’s ‘Counter Culture’ folk scene of the 1960’s … the culture of Greenwich Village continues… even to this day to define me and my music. However, the never-ending challenge for me is how to interpret those disparate yet firmly entrenched influences so that my music remains fresh and relevant to today’s 21st century audiences. That creative struggle never ends…nor should it. ”
As he did on his previous outing, Curreri merges memorable melodies and inspired lyrics with soaring three-part harmonies, and the backing of a sturdy band. His ten songs center on this theme: self-fulfillment as characterized by the “American Dream” is a state of personal achievement that can only be earned over time through hard work and perseverance.
In one sense the music’s classic rock tendencies make it sound a bit old, but it is familiar and therefore comfortable as Curreri draws from The Beatles, the Stones, Dylan and the Byrds, as well as a cross-section of singer-songwriters ranging from Jackson Browne and Tom Petty to Bob Seger and Cat Stevens. Call it a hybrid of classic rock, American folk music and contemporary Americana. Roger Fife (bass), John Putnam (guitar) and Sammy Merendino (drums)… all of whom performed with Curreri on his previous two albums are back joined by newcomers Matt Beck (guitar) and Andrew Burton (organ/keys). (After all, it’s been almost six years since his last release.)
In some ways this is a concept album. Curreri’s own life journey that speaks to one of the myriads of challenges many of us can expect to face. Whether it be dealing with the never-ending search for self-fulfillment (“Still Running”), warning about the negative impact of toxic personal relationships (“Heart Of Stone”), the need to remain positive in a sometimes negative world (“If Only To Be Me”), adapting to an ever changing technological world that values the aspirations of youth over the wisdom of old age which he knows all too well from his years in advertising (“A Fools Heart Crying”), overcoming the emotionally scarring effects of divorce on a child (“Love Gone Wrong”), celebrating true friendship in a digitally isolated social media world (“Call My Name”) or never giving up in the face of adversity (“The Point Of No Return”), the theme is crystallized in these words from the title track, “Whatever happens to the life you live you’ve got to understand it’s all within your hands.”
The album is also about love and the joy he has in his partner, as depicted in the first and final two tracks. Explains Curreri, “I purposely produced the last two tracks of the set as flowing into one another to reinforce the notion that, for me, it was a series of unsuccessful relationships that ultimately brought me to Lydia and to an unbelievable relationship of total acceptance of each other, warts and all. . That is my ultimate message in Hard Road Home as I state in the album’s final track, “Walk With Me,” ‘I’m not half the man I’d hope to be. And yet I’m still your number one.’”
Messages included, Curreri has an album packed with good songs, and again deserving of considerable airplay and multiple listens
- Jim Hynes