Like father, like son? Not always as A.J. Croce, son of Jim, has proven since he started his solo career 20 years ago. Not only does A.J. sound little to nothing vocally like his famous dad, his music is far more eclectic, specifically jazz influenced, than his father’s earthier, traditional singer/songwriter work. A.J.’s eighth album (for his seventh label) finds him recording 6 singles, A and B sides, with a half dozen different producers in as many cities. The names include everyone from the legendary likes of Allen Toussaint and “Cowboy” Jack Clement to Kevin Killen and Mitchell Froom. All songs were released, one each month, in 2013, but anyone who might have missed them can catch up with this handy 41 minute compilation.
As you might expect, the approach is diverse with the younger Croce shifting from the gutsy jazz/blues of “The Time is Up” to the Latin tinged, Joe Jackson styled gospel/pop “The Call of Love” to the more rollicking boogie-woogie soul of “Rollin’ On,” a track co-written with Leon Russell, and sounds it. He shifts into the light country pop of the Nick Lowe variety in “What is Love” and floats like Paul Simon on “Venus & Adonis.” New Orleans gets a tasty spin on “Easy Money” and the twang C&W on “Momentary Lapse of Judgment” shows Croce’s comfort with Nashville music.
Regardless of the genre, Croce slides into these songs with an easy charm. His comfy, grainy voice ties the tracks together and the live in the studio performances keep the tunes buoyant. With a classy, sophisticated touch that gives the project a sweet, slightly rootsy feel, the album flows remarkably well, especially considering its Frankenstein-like construction. While nothing jumps out as a striking performance, this is a pleasant and enjoyable collection by a talented songwriter not content to be hastily or conveniently labeled as someone cashing in on a famous last name.