David Pinsky & Phil Newton – Under the Sun
12 tracks/ 41:25 minutes
This might be the most perfectly titled blues album, since David Pinsky and Phil Newton demonstrate languidly that there is nothing new under the sun. We’ve heard all of this before, as the duo harkens back to the acoustic roots of the blues, to the bare bones lyrics about loneliness, loss, a little love, and the desiccated desolation of the morning after a drunken Saturday night. The sparseness of the music matches the lyrics, though that same sparseness sometimes comes across as amateurish. At times, this album sounds like two friends got together one night with a cassette recorder and played into it, singing songs they’d just finished performing at the local bar. The intimacy draws us into the duo’s confidence, and that carries us along for a little way, until our confidence is strained by the end of the album. Yet, that’s also the beauty of this album: we feel like we’re in the bar listening to Newton and Pinsky deliver their version of the blues with their humor. They’re having fun with the blues, and so should we as long as we’re listening to them.
On “Rosalia,” Newton tells a story of man looking for a woman in a tune that weaves together Springsteen’s “Rosalita” and Warren Zevon’s “Carmelita.” The opening tune, Pinsky’s “Blues in My Bones,” kicks off the album by paying homage to Blind Willie McTell’s “Statesboro Blues.” In a slow burning tune, the singer moans that “I got the feelin’/I got the blues in my bones/don’t know where they came from/but they won’t leave me alone/lookin’ over yonder/trying to find my way back home.” Newton’s choppy harp, imitating footsteps, kicks off the Patsy Cline-inflected “Walkin’.” The song is more of a slow lope, though, and the singer hardly seems anxious to get back to his woman; instead, he’s resigned to long, lonesome slog: “Walkin’, walkin’, walkin’ my way back home/wondering, wondering will I always be alone/I say to myself/it’s true I’m going to be lonesome and blue/‘till I find a way back to you.” “Open the Door (Love Walked In)” takes off with the opening lyrics of Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA”: “oh well, oh well I feel so good today/oh well, oh well, I feel so good today” and then runs off lickety split to declare that “I opened the door and love walked in my way.” Pinsky compares his loved one to biscuits—“she’s flaky as a biscuit”—and a jelly roll—“tasty as a jelly roll”—and cherry pie—“sweet as a cherry pie”—and he “loves that girl until the day” he dies. This jump blues tune may just be the best song on the album since it showcases the duo’s tight, bare bones playing. The final song on the album, “Living Large,” ends playfully with Newton blowing the Flintstones theme on his harp, and he’s already punctuated the tune with riffs from other songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B.”
So, there’s nothing new under the sun on this album, but that doesn’t matter much since Pinsky and Newton are having a good time and invite us to join them along the way. If we do, we’ll have a few laughs with them and enjoy a night well spent.