A solid country-tinged folk album with captivating stories and compassionate messages for outsiders.
It’s not easy to get a job or internship as a stagehand at the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, but songwriter Griffin Anthony managed to spend his summers as a teenager doing just that. He grew up in Bedford and Brewster, New York in a family of successful Italian cooks, which he came to appreciate more as an adult learning that what passes for “good” Italian food across America could not compare to what he had in his family’s kitchen.
Anthony was a star athlete — a self-deceived “jock” — at affluent private schools in New England but left the Northeast to attend Jacksonville University in Florida to play baseball for the university team. Somewhere in there a gift of Beatles cassettes for Christmas turned his head toward music instead of a career as a professional athlete.
While living in Florida in 2008 Anthony signed with two music publishers and has enjoyed a successful career in as a commission-based songwriter, living all over the country and currently calling a Newtown, Connecticut cottage home. His work has appeared on ABC, HBO, Disney, Hugo Boss as campaigns, the documentary ‘Catskill Park.’
This background has obviously honed Anthony’s skill at deep storytelling within a short song on ‘The Art of Collecting,‘ his third album. ‘Shenandoah Judy’ is practically a blue-collar Pennsylvania version of the film ‘The Remains of the Day.’
‘Berklee Babies‘ pokes gentle fun at young students and graduates from the respected Berklee College of Music in Boston, from their over-earnest perfectionism to their knowledge of the standard II-V-I chord progression in a way that only someone who has spent a lot of time working with highly trained musicians can. Probably thanks to Anthony’s summers working as a stagehand at the Newport festivals before going on to play at festivals as an artist himself, this intimate knowledge of musos goes way back. He reassures them that “everything is gonna be alright” and to just enjoy playing music without expectations.
Opening song ‘Freedom‘ is a call for compassion to outsiders of all kinds in American society: the young, immigrants, and others who find themselves excluded. ‘How To Tame A Wild Horse’ continues in this vein but on behalf wayward young males seeking direction and meaning.
‘Troublemaker’ and ‘Honest Easy’ juxtapose a dark attraction to a toxic person with attraction to blissful domesticity. There’s a pull in both directions – to resuming an a dangerous relationship that qualifies as self-harming (“she’s a promise I broke to myself”) and the dreamy harmony of a real relationship going well.
Anthony’s approach to songwriting could have easily gone the way of the complicated academics he sings about in ‘Berklee Babies,‘ but luckily it didn’t. His silky baritone vocals are captivating and timeless, and his acoustic-heavy songs are straightforward, comforting, and uncluttered, gleaned from almost forty years of rich life experience. There are stories and life lessons galore here, some obviously learned the hard way.