First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2010, Volume 17, #11
Written by John Metzger
Wed November 17, 2010, 06:30 AM CST
Peter Wolf records so infrequently these days that it is very easy to forget that he’s still hanging around. Nevertheless, he has made each of his albums from the past decade count. His 2002 effort Sleepless not only served as a lifeline that fully reconnected him to his past, but it also arguably has proven to be much more durable than his commercial triumphs with the J. Geils Band. Eight years later, Wolf has returned with Midnight Souvenirs, an outing that picks up the reigns precisely where its predecessor dropped them.
Wolf spent his formative years as a DJ at a Boston radio station, and his knowledge of American music — whether it’s R&B, country, blues, rock ’n‘ roll, or something in between — is unparalleled. He absorbed everything he heard, and his continuous archeological digs into the past have resulted in an uncanny ability to recall even the most obscure songs, albums, and artists at the drop of a hat. Whether they emerged from the scenes at Stax and Motown or they erupted from the streets of Bakersfield and Philadelphia, the stylistic interests of his youth latched tightly onto his DNA and forever altered his soul. Not surprisingly, Midnight Souvenirs leans heavily upon them. It is another remarkably sturdy effort that emits warmth at every turn and frequently sounds like a lost relic from the days of vinyl.
Without a doubt, Wolf has been traveling down this road ever since he assembled a team of industry veterans — including producer Kenny White, songwriters Will Jennings and Angelo Petraglia, and engineer Rob Eaton — to work on his 1998 endeavor Fool’s Parade. With Sleepless, Wolf refined and expanded his template by adding guitarist Larry Campbell to his backing band and inviting a handful of special guests — such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Magic Dick — to join him. Midnight Souvenirs follows a similar structure, though this time Wolf plays host to Neko Case, Shelby Lynne, and Merle Haggard. Nevertheless, the collection hardly could be considered formulaic.
Wolf’s love of American music seeps through every track on Midnight Souvenirs. From the churning blues of Thick as Thieves to the rolling country of Always Asking for You and from the Stones-y swagger of I Don’t Wanna Know to the Barry White-inspired seduction of Overnight Lows, he covers a lot of territory while offering his reflections on life and love with an abundance of longing and regret. In lesser hands, the songs on Midnight Souvenirs could have sounded like genre exercises. Yet, Wolf makes the set work because he not only recreates the various styles perfectly, but he also fills them with authenticity. Without a doubt, they don’t make albums like Midnight Souvenirs anymore. Fortunately, Wolf won’t let anyone forget it.
Of Further Interest...
Van Morrison - The Best of Van Morrison, Volume 3
Midnight Souvenirs is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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