In his literary life heâs known by songwriters, poets and prose writers nationwide for being the director of multiple Michigan-based writersâ retreats, including the Detroit Michigan Writersâ Retreat, the Lost Lake Writersâ Retreat in northern Michigan, and his popular Lambâs Retreat for Songwriters, now in its 24th year. And then thereâs the life he leads as an award-winning singer, songwriter and recording artist whoâs been performing for Michigan audiences for decades.
Lambâs newest recording project, âA Movie Night,â is the perfect intersection of those two realms. The album features 15 original songs, many of which sprang from the very writing retreats heâs known for directing.
âA Movie Nightâ is the most recent release on Lambâs own Mezzanotte label (named for his grandfather Giovanni Mezzanotte, or Johnny Midnight, who was himself an infamous character back in his Italian hometown). Itâs no coincidence that âA Movie Nightâ bookends Lambâs first Mezzanotte release from the 90s, âA Novel Day,â but Lamb is intentional about revealing his development as an artist and performer since that first album some 20 plus years ago.
As varied as the titles off a marquee, the themes of âA Movie Nightâ bravely wander the wide-open roads of the storytelling process. Whether itâs the tale of two young girls dealing with the consequences of their weekend revelry in âNormal by Monday,â or the teenage angst of the protagonist in âR Rated Night in Redfordâ who sneaks into an off-limits movie to explore the forbidden world of smoking, swearing and sex.
While Lambâs unconventional and often whimsical songwriting provides the recordâs framework, his acoustic rhythm guitar drives the feel behind each cut. But itâs the versatility and creativity of Lambâs longtime friend, producer and guitar player, Jim Bizer, that really bring out the originality in Lambâs songs. His surfy baritone guitar on âThe Year of the Rosesâ is a fun complement to Len Wallaceâs accordion, and gives the tune a cool south-of-the-border groove reminiscent of the Mavericks.
The guitar that Bizer plays is in itself a special guest; The black Stratocaster is an heirloom formerly played by Lambâs late brother, Sal DâAgnillo, who passed away around the time of Lambâs 2007 recording, âFeel That.â DâAgnillo, who was a popular and talented guitar player, is featured on âFeel That.â He left the guitar to Lamb.
âJim made my brotherâs guitar sound really good,â says Lamb. âI think my brother would be pleased with the way he played it.â
The record features multiple guests, including some trombone by bugs Beddow. Bizerâs slide guitar and banjo is particularly energized when heâs driving the toe-tapping, side-swaying rhythms behind âBound to Talk,â which features punctuating background vocals by the distinctive voice of Tino Gross of the Howling Diablos. He also plays drums on the track.
On the ethereal meditation âRinging of the Bell,â however, the spotlight shines fully and poignantly on Lamb. The song is a beautifully touching lament, perfectly balanced in production and performance.
Although there is a timeless quality to Lambâs songwriting, there is a sense of nostalgia to âA Movie Nightâ in that it plays like an album from a time now past. The songs form cinematic vignettes that flow seamlessly from one to the next. Thereâs a picture in your mind for every song; nothing lays flat.
âI come from the album generation,â says Lamb. âIf you sat down to listen to an album, you sat down to listen to the whole thing, side one, side two. I tried to make a record that people will listen to in that way. Something that will make them want to take the time to spin it all.â
Media may contact Matt Lee for Drumbeaters at 248-931-2443 or MLeibow412@aol.com.
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John D. Lamb
P.O. Box 304
Royal Oak, MI 48073