Somewhere downriver of Esplanade, there’s a tavern where the troubadours of the unbalanced hang out, drink, gamble, and tell tales. This might be metaphorical, but it also might not.
Luke Allen, Alex McMurray, Ryan Scully, Tom Waits, Josh Cohen, Benjamin Booker, pull out that stool for Greg Schatz. His latest record details the stories of characters full of regret who are victims of “Head Games” and a “Dream Crusher.” They get to take care of friends going off the deep end in “It’s the Insanity.”
They are the type of folks who whisper in your ear at the bar, get into your personal space in an uncomfortable manner, and have a difficult time leaving you alone. However, they also get to experience good times in “It’s A Beautiful Day” and tell loved ones “I’ll Never Grow Tired of You.” Despite all the ups and downs, Schatz’s plain voice keeps an even keel with a sincere charm.
The music is rootsy with touches of rock, blues, jazz, and traditional. It’s deceptively simple, but with a depth in its alternating joy and weariness. Schatz’s songs are filled with unexpected rhymes in their wit and sarcasm. He is full of new angles on old ideas, whether it’s beverages in the Garden of Eden on “Grape Juice” or the wide open 1970s-esque instrumental “That’s My Jam.”
Fans that keep track of the various musicians in this town will happily recognize the stylish and tasteful guitar tones of Alex McMurray, the unique, almost ramshackle shuffles of drummers Doug Garrison and Paul Santopadre, and the soulful piano and organ of Schatzy himself. In some ways, this album exists in its own universe, and in some ways its universe could only be New Orleans in its lack of genre and sardonic earnestness.
Either way, it’s a universe in which listeners will be welcome and glad to spend time in, even if they never find the bar where the all those downtrodden bards hang their hats.