Bobby Messano is one talented man. If you look at his previous albums, you’ll see a track record that includes multiple award nominations, sessions and tours with some of the best known names in the industry, and the respect of his peers and colleagues. That’s if you look at the albums.
If you listen to the albums, you’ll find an artist who is deeply committed to exploring his world, both on a personal and global level, and finding the intersection where those two meet. His latest album, Bad Movie, continues that exploration, and the result is an immensely enjoyable album that features some of the best lyrics of the year.
Most of the words and music on the album were written by Messano and his writing partner Jon Tiven. Tiven is another master whose work has been performed by such luminaries as Rick Derringer, Barrence Whitfield & the Savages, The Symptoms, Huey Lewis and the News, The Jeff Healey Band, B.B. King, Don Covay, Syl Johnson, Donnie Fritts, Freddie Scott, Mack Rice, Wilson Pickett, Robert Cray, Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, and Irma Thomas.
Not too bad of company to be in.
Messano also worked with Larry Weiss and Steve Kallnich, while Tiven turned in a collaboration with Queen co-founder Brian May.
The musicians on the album include Messano who plays guitar and sings lead vocals; Ed Canova on bass and background vocals; Nioshi Jackson on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Tiven on saxophone; and Pete Gallinari on organ and piano. Alecia Elliott Fisher supplies vocals for two duets and provides additional backing vocals.
The album starts out with the title track, Bad Movie, which can either make or break an album. Sometimes it’s best to let the album develop before unleashing the title track, but here Messano opens with it, much like the credits of a movie. Is his life, and by extension, our lives nothing but a bad movie? Like I said earlier, the lyrics are pretty wild throughout. It’s a blistering number that is thought provoking and illuminating at the same time. And good. Damn good.
The next song, Come To Your Senses, is slower and just as intense. Messano’s vocals are smoother and the song is lush. This is the song written by May and Tiven and there are several May touches on the guitar parts. The lyrics are dark, many of them are on the album. This one will be making the rounds of the blues shows.
With a title that sounds like it belongs on a country album, Why Water A Dead Rose is anything but a country tune. It does start out low and slow, and while it builds into the longest song on the album (only about 5:15, so not that long), it has a slightly different approach. It’s very poetic and the dark lyrics fit the blues beautifully.
Messano follows with Road To Oblivion, a straight up blues song. Traveling on roads with a guitar, it doesn’t get more blues than that. This is one of my favorite songs on the album and I know it will be appearing on Time For The Blues very soon. I don’t know about you, but this song speaks to me on so many levels.
The blistering Unconventional Wisdom follows. The guitar intro has an evil feel to it and the heavy percussion adds to the overpowering feeling of the song. This one has a serious look at the world, and it’s not at all a flattering reflection. It’s got some serious rock edges to it, but it’s a strong song through and through.
Next up is Too Good To Be True, a funky song with some cool guitar licks. The lyrics are razor sharp and Messano’s vocals are honed to a sharp edge. The drums really make the song, keeping that beat and allowing Messano’s choppy guitar to take over.
Messano follows up with what is probably my favorite song on the album, If The Phone Ain’t Ringin, It’s Me Not Callin’. Got to love that title, it’s clever and the song is played at a very fast pace. It’s the shortest song on the album, right at 2:20 and it packs a lot into a short time. This is punk rock fueled blues with a Bo Diddley beat.
He then segues into a good advice song, Never Too Late To Break A Bad Habit. It’s a lesson I never learned, but it sure makes for a good song. The rhythm section does a great job laying down the track and Messano uses his guitar as much as a weapon as an instrument.
The first song to feature Alecia Elliot’s vocals in a duet with Messano is Water Under The Bridge. Their voices blend nicely and the song takes on a much different feel. It’s a sweet pop/country song with some good lyrics. The second duet, You Left Me No Choice, has a reggae feel to it and the combination of the two songs reinforces my belief that Messano has the ability to take on many different genres. I also think his choice of Elliot as a singing partner was a wise one. She has a sweet but powerful voice.
A slow seductive number follows. The Girl That Got Away is a sad song of loss and continuing to go on afterwards. Messano is vulnerable on this number, opening up all of his emotion, while the song has a little bounce to it. It’s a good song and one that definitely catches your imagination.
I Thought We Had This starts off with a swinging rhythm, but the lyrics reveal a darker side. I’ve always enjoyed those songwriters that can get you thinking one way and then put in a big twist that takes it in a different direction. The music doesn’t match the lyrics, and that’s a very cool thing. The surprise makes the song more memorable to me.
The drums start off We Need A Blessing, and lay down a solid beat for the guitar and vocals. It’s another look at the state of America. This goes beyond political leanings, this is about what Americans face on a daily basis, and the fact that we could use some divine intervention to help the situation. Good song addressing social issues in the way the folk movement and even some of the ‘60’s rock songs addressed their social issues in order to raise our consciences.
The song, Is It Too Much To Hope For A Miracle, is a perfect bookend to the previous number. If we need a blessing, is it too much to hope for one? I’m glad to see more musicians using their voices to speak out for those that don’t have a voice. Good number.
Messano concludes the album with American Spring. It’s a rocking number that completes the trilogy of songs about the condition of the country and the issues it faces. “Let’s put our hearts together/We’ve got to take control,” is one helluva lyric that sums up what many feel about our current situation. I’m not taking sides here, I think both the left and right are part of the problem, but maybe, just maybe we can find a way to meet in the middle and find solutions.
If you’re not already a fan of Bobby Messano, this is a good album to start. He’s really poured himself into this one and left everything on stage. The songs are tight, well written, and I think you just might find several that speak to you. Be sure to check him out. I know that he performs often in the Northern Virginia, DC, and Maryland areas because I checked out his website: http://www.bobbymessano.com/ .
In fact, one of his upcoming shows is in Deltaville, the location of one of his previous albums, and a place unlike any other on earth. Situated on the Chesapeake Bay, Deltaville is a peaceful oasis in a troubled time. When you go to visit, there’s a different mindset, and a host of troubles can disappear while watching the sun set.
That’s the show I’m going to try to catch. Hope you’ll join me.