Joe Grushecky: Somewhere East Of Eden

Joe Grushecky
Somewhere East Of Eden
(Schoolhouse/Warner Brothers)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Unless you are a superfan of journeyman Pittsburgh based rocker Grushecky and have followed his career from his early years fronting the unfairly ignored Iron City Houserockers, you will probably be shocked to learn that this is his 17th solo album. Now in his 60s, he’s long past wondering why.

Even with the support of buddy Bruce Springsteen who produced one of his albums and is a frequent writing partner, and boasting decades of positive reviews, he’s all but a footnote in the urban rock and soul trenches. But, like Dave Alvin, Garland Jeffreys and other aging rockers who are still playing the same size clubs they were 30 years ago, Grushecky just keeps on doing what he loves. He releases quality if somewhat interchangeable albums that revel in the sweat of the blue collar workers and ordinary folks that have typically populated his songs.

This is another and easily as solid as the rest, if maybe a notch or two better, perhaps because it was fan financed. The set kicks off in fine, gutsy rocking form with Grushecky singing that “the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor,” a pretty good summation of his own experience and certainly that of his friends and neighbors. After all, this is a guy who titled an earlier disc Rock & Real, an acknowledgement that the roots of his music and lyrics reflect the world as he sees it.

The songs ring out with Grushecky’s tough determined vocals, somewhere between Springsteen and Southside Johnny, making each one feel like it’s his last chance. The title track, a mid-tempo rocker about a US veteran coming back from Iraq with a serious drug habit, is told with unflinching, even graphic honesty that puts you in the middle of the soldier’s downward spiral. Musically it’s as raw and driven as the lyrics suggest. The politics continue on the partially spoken word “When Castro Came Down from the Hills” where a basic history lesson gets personal as Grushecky paints a portrait of lovers against the titular time of the 60s.

A small yet forgivable misstep is the humorous but far too obvious “Still Look Good (for Sixty)” that shows a welcome sense of self-deprecating humor referencing that his fans are now grandparents. Far better is “I Was Born to Rock” that takes its somewhat clichéd title seriously with one of the singer’s most impassioned performances likely since he’s clearly philosophically tied closely to it.

Those new to Joe Grushecky’s impressive history and talents can start here and work backwards. Just be forewarned that if you get hooked, which is likely, there is a lot of catching up to do.

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