Local Artist Andy Monaco Invited the Muses to Create Great Music
By Kathleen Bratcher for The Forum, Westminster College
We have seen or heard the slogan “Buy Local First” as if it were an imperative to our survival; farm-fresh produce, baked-goods, handmade sweaters and soaps. An image not conjured up by this bumper-sticker philosophy is homegrown music. What a shame.
Long-time indie musician Andy Monaco is as good as it gets. He is the veteran-on-the-mound of Salt Lake City’s locals out there singing for his supper. Picking up his first instrument at the tender age of 13, Monaco has spent years crafting music for his ever-growing audience.
The newest CD to be added to any music-lover’s library should be Monaco’s “Maybe,” scheduled for release September 28th, 2006. With a mix of rock, blues, folk, and touches of jazz and gospel, “Maybe” has 11 songs, giving the listener a solid glimpse into the artistic license granted to Monaco’s musical long-standing stature. All of the music is original Monaco, as are the lyrics.
The subjects of his songs vary, but all are inspired. When writing lyrics, Monaco says, “I set the table for the Muses. Sometimes they don’t show up, but when they do, I am ready for them.” The first song on the CD is “Strong Dog Blues,” a dragged-note, harmonica-accompanied blues song about man’s best friend.
The second song and title-track is a ballad that pokes and prods the weak points in all of us when we realized we stayed to long with the hopes of moving on. In his bio, Monaco says, “I write a lot of songs about love because I don’t know squat about it.” After hearing the third song on the CD at a recent Monaco summer concert, a guy leaned over to me and said, “Man that was incredible,” before getting up to leave so he could go recover.
The song, “Never Love,” is an acoustic guitar piece played by Monaco, where he bellows the questions “Have you ever felt a hunger, you cannot feed? [...] Would you take a bullet for me?” The song builds into a crescendo that ultimately acknowledges that no matter how much they care about each other, the subjects of the song know “That this was never love at all.”
“If I Can” is another song about dedication that lasts too long. It is a soft-sounding, sort of ballad, with the comforting words “I’ll be there in a moment my friend; there in a flash and out of nowhere. I’ll be there in a moment or less; feet out of step, catching my breath .[…] And I’ll work you good medicine just like a friend to a friend.”
In contrast, the urgent “She’s Got Somethin’,” the bongos, violin and quick-strumming of the acoustic guitar might make you want to get up and dance like your banshee inside. The added laugh of a woman at the end of song is convincing; why yes, “She’s been looking for inspiration; Lord knows she’s found some” and does have something going on, doesn’t she?
The song “Your House” has the sliding sound of nightclub jazz. The raspy voice of Monaco singing “It must have been something that I was saying; could have been any one of a dozen dumb things” is accompanied perfectly by horns and electric keyboards. The last verse is followed by a sax solo that is reminiscent of a smoke-filled, dark music house.
The folk sound of “Favorite Shoes” is true to the genre, with the story-telling of a fatherless boy and how his left-behind family works to makes ends meet. The flute and cello add to the haunting lyrics.
In Monaco’s mixing of musical sounds, two songs stand out. Blues and gospel blend in the sounds of “True Love.” The female background singers interject their “ooh! ooh! ohh!” and “true, true love” at the just right moments. It's as if they are dressed in their Sunday best and show up barely in time for the performance. In “Funky Business,” funk tones and blues merge with the added help of a strong horn section.
The 1950s swagger of heavy bass, horns, and electric guitar licks is all blues in the track “Take It All.” There is specific pronunciation and inflections of Monaco as he sings “Got no di-rection for me baby, no moves left for me tonight” because as he tells it, “Them blues have got me, they got a hold on me.” This is a great sounding song illustrating the heartfelt and unhealthy lament of havin’ the blues.
The last piece of the CD brings the anthology of Monaco’s previous stories to a close; it is the most personal song in the set. “My Heart” is gentle in music, the cello resurfaces along with the acoustic guitar, and the lyrics read like poetry. While singing, Monaco holds his notes a little longer. It is in honor of all of the Muses that have spent time with Monaco and influenced his music.
Straight away is how quickly you should get this CD. Local music might be a little harder to get your hands on then mainstream, play-it-to-death-on-the-radio music, but it is worth the effort. The CD will be available to order directly from Monaco on his website andymonaco.com. The Muses of Andy Monaco will continue to be honored.
Reviews for Maybe
"Andy Monaco, an icon in Zion, releases his newest and biggest CD to date. Having shared the stage with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, Mose Allison, Jose Feliciano and many others, this veteran of several decades of rock and roll, is back. The music is original and upbeat. Big drums, horn sections and pretty girls in short skirts singing background vocals. Test drive this “Delorean” of singer-songwriters. You’ll see the reason for so much excitement in this new release. Starting with ‘Strong Dog Blues”, and next to ‘Maybe”, the title track, the difference between Andy and ‘the others’ will be apparent. This guy is an original."
– CD Baby
Reviews for Nobody Said Love
"If you HAD to pick one genre to describe Andy Monaco, it would have to be Rock. But Rock just isn't enough to describe his music. Andy describes one of his bands -- a five piece ensemble -- as a "five piece funk, soul, pop, jazz, gypsy rock band." His 12 piece ensemble is a "BIG rock and roll gospel inflected pop jazz band." Music like Monaco's is a special treat for music reviewers. While we frequently hear from bands who say they can't be classified, even though they have two guitars, a bass, and drums, and cover Rolling Stones tunes, Monaco is a true artist who covers the entire range of music he says he does -- a singer who sings like John Prine or John Mayall, writes like Tom Waits (yeah, he even sounds like him a little), and plays like Chris Rea or Robbie Robertson, and jams just as hard as any of them (and the clarinet on gypsy-sounding "Me and You" is pretty hot too)."
"For a personal favorite, I have to go with "Bed of Nails," (hear Bed of Nails on the audio clips page)a down-and-dirty, evil sounding song. The heavy, dissonant, thumping music and gravelly vocals made me wonder if Monaco sold his soul to Screaming Jay Hawkins to produce this one. I cranked up the volume and listened to the thing over and over."
"Andy Monaco performed with such greats as Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, Jose Felliciano, David Bromberg,and Norton Buffalo, among others.After an eight year hiatus (to raise some children), he is back to performing, writing and recording. His recent release, NOBODY SAID LOVE, is a big time indie production; great songwriting and performance with his 12 piece band, ala Lovett's big band. This guy is a rocker disguised as a pop/folk/jazz songwriter. Great lyrics with an interesting perspective make this Andy a great storyteller as well as a jumping, winking, dancing, and animated performer. An icon in the land of Zion."