Review: Joe Adragna - Fall Back

New Orleans singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist shows us why he doesn't need a band
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Joe Adragna - Fall Back Album Cover

New Orleans based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Joe Adragna brings us his second solo record Fall Back - only four short months after delivering his first solo effort Parlophony.  Adragna, former frontman for the bands The Junior League and Tether's End, plays most of the instruments on the record but brings along an impressive group of friends to contribute as well.

While I know I probably shouldn't compare the two records, I can't help but to think of them both since they came out so close together.  If Parlophony is the hyper-active older sibling, boasting punchy power pop numbers like "I Don't Believe in Love" and "Everybody Loves Me But You," Fall Back is the mellow one, featuring 13 incredibly well written, thoughtful songs that all seem masterfully crafted to complement each other.  

"You're Gonna Die Alone" - a standout track on the album, features backing vocals by Susan Cowsill (who also lends her voice to several other tracks on the album).  The Adragna/Cowsill vocal combo is fantastic, two distinctly unique voices that just simply work well together.  Aside from the backing by Cowsill, "You're Gonna Die Alone" also features guest musicians Peter Buck (R.E.M.) and Scott McCaughey (Minus 5 and REM).  Not only is the resume of contributing musicians awe-ispiring - the lyrics bring us everything one desires in a good old fashioned revenge song:

You only lie to yourself and think that you have won
You're gonna reap what you have sown 
You're gonna die alone

Former Tether's End fans will find a a little nostalgia and an old familiar friend in "Sad America" (formerly recorded by Tether's End on the Art vs. Commerce album that came out in - I'm guessing here - 1997).  Only the newly recorded version of "Sad America" is more grown up version of Adragna's original manifesto on American culture - with powerful guitar riffs and more refined vocals.  

Throughout the record you can hear a variety of musical influences, from the Lemonheads, to Sloan, to the Byrds, to REM. Adragna's vocals range from somber and cacophonous ("I Miss You") to lively and melodic ("Ladders").  The genres of the tracks also vary slightly - from the solid pop tunes like "Swezey's" that we're used to from Adragna to the weepy pedal-steeled dare I say indy-country track "Far Away."  The one thing that is consistent throughout the record?  Songs that are thoughtfully crafted with careful attention to all of the details.  With songwriting this good Adragna is doing the best work of his career as a solo artist.