I’ve always enjoyed watching someone step out and challenge themself as a musician. One of my personal favorite things is when the guitarist/keyboard player/back up singer etc. steps up and puts out their own record. Two I love are Shayne Fontayne – “What Nature Intended,” (sadly his only release) and Bill Toms “Paradise Avenue.” Both of those guys played with Joe Grushecky so I figured I would try a third time with Danny Gochnour.
Danny has played with Joe and The Houserockers for 13 years, replacing the aforementioned Mr. Toms. During his 40 year career he has also played with Bruce Springsteen, Sheri Richards, Gary US Bonds, Pat Travers, Wally Palmer (Romantics), John Cafferty, Willie Nile, Joe D’Urso, Southside Johnny, Eddie Manion, and Donnie Iris. This is his first time out front however.
The Despair of Summer (what a title btw) marks the first time Danny is singing lead in public. In addition to singing, he wrote all of the songs on the record except for a mind blowing instrumental take on The Eagles I Can’t Tell You Why. This songwriting marks another first for Danny.
I’ll be honest I was expecting the entire record to be instrumental or mostly instrumental in the vein of Steve Vai or Jeff Beck. That belief was reinforced when the record opened up with Prelude – an instrumental song that sounds like a Daniel Lanois master class. The songs that followed were quite the opposite after that.
I always play a game with my son, “guess the genre” when a song comes on the radio. The Despair of Summer would stump him or even a musicologist with 50 years experience.. At times you think 80’s, prog, 70’s classic rock, Americana, even boogie country – Sometimes all in the same song! It’ a cliche to say there’s something for everyone – but I always use cliches so there IS something for everyone here.
I do want to mention the song Better Things to Do (Epilogue). Here Danny taps into the spiritual side he has gotten through his extensive work with Orchard Hill Church. Basically it’s a confession, request to get into heaven, middle aged lament. The lyrics and music have a perfect marriage.
I have to admit, I love Crazy Linda J. – probably before I heard the song just for the title but it didn’t disappoint. A barn burner! My favorite surprise on the record is American Dream – a song featuring bajo with lyrics that could be out of Woody Guthrie.
The thing most people wonder about when the guitar player makes a record is his voice. Danny shows that he has spent many years with voice and gets maximum results from it. I’m anxious to hear him live.
It remains to be seen if this will be a one off project like Shayne Fontaine or lead to a whole career as a band leader as it did with Bill Toms. If I were to guess I would say something in between but only time will tell. In the meantime, we’ll always have The Despair of Summer.
As a “music writer” I’ve always wanted to write a record review. For some reason this has never happened. It’s one thing to write about music but a review seemed daunting. I finally resolved to make myself do it. This is my first one. I hope you liked it!
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