I got to see Mooner in a unique setting last week when they played as a duo at Jerry’s in Wicker Park. It was a nice reminder of how solid their songs are, as I hadn’t seen them perform in about a year. The vocals were pushed a little further than a normal show, so you could really hear Lee Ketch’s voice singing his words. They play a form of American rock n’ roll that a lot of bands shy away from, with big bold guitar riffs and no signs of pretentiousness.
The new single off their album Masterpiece (Oct 9) is called “Alison.” If you’re like me, you immediately jumped to Elvis Costello. This doesn’t sound anything like that song, though it does have a little “Pump It Up” mixed in just to give you a little taste. Lee’s vocal delivery takes some influence from Elvis, but it’s much closer to Tom Petty than Costello. That should come as no surprise if you’ve listened to Mooner at any point.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to the rest of the new album yet. If “Alison” is any indication of what’s on there, I know I’m going to be very pleased.
Steve Slagg has been paying his dues as a musician for a while now. I, along with many others, know him best as the keyboard player/vocalist in Chicago rock band Mooner, but he also has his own project, Youngest Son. They are wildly different as far as style and sound (though they do have one thing in common-they’re very good). I had no knowledge of Youngest Son before I got an email with their latest release, the EP All Soul’s Day attached.
There’s a lot to like in the short 25 minute collection of songs, including two covers of songs from Slagg’s full-length All Saint’s Day (“Hole In The Sky” by Allison Van Liere and “Long Year” by Lee Ketch), of which the new release is a companion piece. The compositions are all really beautifully done here, with the emphasis on piano and vocals. The masterful craftsmanship, coupled with the choice of instrumentation, brings to mind Ben Folds and Elliott Smith (though Randy Newman seems to be Steve’s preference).
The atmosphere of the record grabs you right away as “Blank Face” opens with soft and sweet piano strokes. Joined after the first verse by strings and drums, the song picks up in the middle of verse two and slows down again just as slowly providing some great dynamics that draw you in even deeper.
I think that rather than a companion piece, you could think of All Soul’s Day as a kind of sampler or mixtape. There isn’t really a narrative through it, because two of the songs are from the other record and one is an old gospel song. It doesn’t take away from the quality of work on display. In fact, I like that you get little tastes of different aspects of Youngest Son here because it makes you want to go check out the other releases.
You can stream All Soul’s Day on The Youngest Son’s website.