Anthony D’Amato’s music is a cross between early Bob Dylan folk and Bruce Springsteen rock. I say that not simply because a harmonica rack dangles from his neck like an appendage as he picks an acoustic guitar, or because he is from New Jersey, but because his lyrics are both un-apologetically earnest and, at times, playfully droll.
Anthony D’Amato has released three albums. His debut, Down Wires (2010), was recorded in his dorm room at Princeton. The first track, “The Ballad of the Undecided,” serves as an apt introduction to D’Amato’s lyrical style. Lines like “I’m not religious, I just like playing God,” drip with cynicism and wit and harken to some of Dylan’s most masterful lyrics (“To live outside the law you must be honest” comes immediately to mind from “Absolutely Sweet Marie”). Down Wires also features the modern-day anti-war protest song, “Holy War,” written from the perspective of a returning veteran (“Close my eyes, I can’t control what I see/Since I come home, I don’t sleep”) that builds on ground plowed by “Born in the U.S.A” and “Blowin’ in the Wind.” It is a beautiful song (and the inspiration for a Liner Notes post).
D’Amato’s second album, Paper Back Bones (2012), contains some gems like “Hank Williams Tune” with its exquisitely yearning opening line: “Let me crawl through the cracks in your widow/I’ll be the light of the moon” and “Let me slip my hands into your pocket/I’ll be your Leonard Cohen poem.”
D’Amato’s most recent release, The Shipwreck from the Shore (2014), takes his mostly spare musical style to another level with a full backing band and a fuller sound. “Good and Ready” (above), for example, has a decidedly Jersey Shore sound akin to Southside Johnny or The River-era Springsteen with its slide fills taking on the role of the saxophone. It is a love song expressed as a death wish, death being preferable to living without a certain somebody. But the lyrics are more amusing than morbid: “Let me die on a Sunday, I wan’na stay outta Hell/Let me die in the subway, could they even tell?”
At a recent show in Berkeley (after which he was nice enough to sign an album cover for me, see above), D’Amato explained that when he broke up with the person he was living with in New York City, neither could afford to move out. While awkward, he said it provided excellent fodder for a record. “If it don’t work out, you take the bed and I’ll take the couch if it don’t work out” is one of several lines on the record that put the listener in that highly-charged apartment. “Ludlow” is a spare, beautiful little tune filled with delicate couplets, while “Was A Time” (below) is an understatedly angry break-up song reminiscent of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” The harmonica bends on this tune sound as if they were lifted directly from the haunting first notes of Springsteen’s “The River.”
Anthony D’Amato is a great listen, not just for the music but for his engaging lyrical style. He is currently on tour so be sure to check him out.