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|James Maddock||Primary Artist, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals|
|David Immerglück||Mandolin, Lap Steel Guitar|
|Leslie Mendelson||Background Vocals|
Posted June 21, 2011
Wake Up and Dream (2011), James Maddock's second studio album, reminds us why musicians as accomplished as Aaron Comess (the Spin Doctors), David Immergluck (the Counting Crows), and Mike Scott (the Waterboys) have regularly rearranged their careers to collaborate, perform, and tour with James Maddock, and why he consistently packs out the legendary Rockwood Music Hall on NYC's Lower East Side. Maddock is a "musician's musician" who has spent a lifetime learning from the masters of popular music, from Louis Armstrong to Tom Waits to Ian Hunter. The hallmarks of his art are in full display on this follow-up to his critically acclaimed solo debut, Sunrise on Avenue C (2009): meticulously structured songwriting, sparkling melodies, subtle humor and empathy, and a musical style that draws from the best of all his influences, from jazz to Americana to folk-rock.
Producer Iestyn Polson (who worked with David Gray on his breakthrough White Ladder and Draw the Line) brings a bright, dreamy sound to the project that allows the band's stellar musicianship to stay front and center. The album's opening track and first single, "Beautiful Now" (co-written with Mike Scott) shimmers with visual imagery and musical flourishes like summer sun on waves. Intimate vignettes, as sparely drawn and evocative as a Raymond Carver short story ("Stella's Driving," "Mr. Universe"), share a landscape with stories of invisibility and free-fall on the underside of the American dream ("Step into the Water," whose narrator admits: "Everybody's happy and they smile sincere/Things are always the opposite of what they appear.") Other songs celebrate the stability--and randiness--of happy love ("Stoned on You" and the title track). In an age of hype and technological overkill, it is an undiluted pleasure to watch an artist working at the highest level with such humility and humanity.