Peter Himmelman – Press On
I’ve been listening to Emmy & Grammy-nominated Peter Himmelman since his 1st LP (1986). I was impressed by many tracks over the decades. Instead of being nostalgic about the inspiring & intense songs I admire by Peter, I’m pleased to hear his new collection with the barest of overdubs maintains a high degree of quality. And it continues with this – his 15th solo LP. Recorded live in the studio the 13-track Press On (drops July 31 – Himmasongs/Six Degrees Records) features a raw, swinging gospel-blues with juke-joint type Gibson acoustic guitar, vocals, piano & electric lead — that’s vintage Blasters’ dark.
Instantly likable is the piano-driven “This Is How It Ends,” which reminded me of what attracted me to Peter’s work. The melody, performance, lyrics & just the personality of the composition is impressionable. What’s surprising is that on this LP Peter touches gently into a jazzier mode. “The Wall of the Trumpets & the Clatter of the Hoofbeats,” has blues punch but the guitars are solidly jazz as they snake around each other as if dodging the thick smoke of cigarettes, & cigars of a 50s jazz lounge. Matthew Thompson’s upright bass thumps out deliciously, Chris Joyner’s gospel-tinged Wurlitzer piano is sweet, John Englund (drums & percussion), Greg Herzenach (guitar) & Peter’s Telecaster weaves a clear web of notes.
It’s coincidental that I recently saw the documentary Peter cites as influential about how he would proceed with his new songs. The film was Chasing Trane – based on the life & career of jazz great John Coltrane. It caused Peter to cancel his early sessions until he could reorganize. Peter stated that he was inspired by Coltrane’s “indefatigable insistence on digging deeper into the wellsprings of his creativity.” This resulted in some rethinking & the result is solid. I like what I hear. But I have to remind myself we’ve gotten older, his music had to mature & it has.
For my own edification, I found comfort in “Straw & Kerosene,” & “Big Red Moon.” They sound like an earlier era, not redundant, back to the Peter poignancy – it’s still there. He maintains a strong voice despite new genres. Jazzier, bluesier, funkier, gospel-oriented & done with skill.
“Flying Sideways ‘Cross,” he’s John Lee Hooker-lite impressively entrenched in an Americana-roots musical mud. Quite expressive. While I don’t hear anything singularly as intense as “Only You Can Walk Away,” “Child into a Man,” “I Feel Young Today,” or “The “5th of August,” — the new songs will penetrate as they did. One only has to listen. The quality of those old classics still runs through Peter’s music.
The 56-minute CD: produced by Peter & Arthur Himmelman, Sheldon Gomberg, with Matthew Thompson, is available at Amazon. The CD has 2 different covers – one with an infant & one with Peter.