Sounds Local: Zak Trojano releases 2nd solo albumn

For The Recorder
Last modified: 2/5/2016 6:01:03 PM
If you follow the local music scene then you know Zak Trojano. He is the guitarist and drummer for the popular genre-blurring folk band Rusty Belle and has worked as a backing musician for singer-songwriters like Peter Mulvey and Jeffrey Foucault. But what you might not know is that Trojano, a Greenfield resident, also performs and records as a solo artist. He recently released his second solo album, “Yesterday’s Sun,” a collection of songs that are honest, fresh and hauntingly beautiful.

Trojano will celebrate the release of “Yesterday’s Sun” with a show at the Parlor Room in Northampton this Friday at 7 p.m. He will be backed by his band, the Low Standards, which includes Kris Delmhorst on vocals and cello, Paul Kochanski on bass and Nathan Hobbs on saxophone. Singer-songwriter Pamela Means will open the show.

Rusty Belle is still very much together at the moment, but Trojano, despite a “lot of exciting Rusty Belle ideas floating around,” is focusing his energy on “Yesterday’s Sun.” (The album title was taken from a song that Trojano wrote but ended up not including on the finished album.)

“I’m interested in exploring what it means to be a solo artist,” Trojano said in a recent e-mail exchange. “Mainly how it changes my approach to playing the guitar and singing, but also how I need to react to when there is no one on stage to hide behind.”

Being the guy out in front when you are used to being a member of a band can be a challenge, but one that Trojano is clearly up for.

“It feels like going to a high school dance, alone, where no one really knows you,” he explained. “For me, that’s not necessarily a bad situation. All you can do is circle around and check things out. Ask some people to dance with you and park by the back door. It’s freeing.”

Trojano had a handful of talented local musicians assist him in the making of this album. In addition to the members of the Low Standards, drummer Don McAulay and singer Kate Lorenz, one of his bandmates in the trio Rusty Belle, contributed to the project. Trojano said the recording was far more involved for this album than it was on his first project, “Two Lines.”He credits singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst of Shelburne Falls for playing a vital role in the process.

“Kris played cello, sang harmonies, engineered, and acted as a kind of advisor,” explained Trojano. “She’s got the best ears and musical imagination, and it was immensely helpful for me to set our brains a certain distance apart and start ideas bouncing back and forth.”

“Yesterday’s Sun” is impeccably arranged with the spare musical accompaniment enhancing, but never overwhelming, Trojano’s rich baritone and his poetic lyrics. The way that his voice drifts over Delmhorst’s soft cello on the opening track “Another Morning Rose,” or the manner in which Kochanski’s simple thumping bass line drives “Come on Up” is an example of how the philosophy of “less is more” can work so well. Traces of country, folk and blues inform these songs that are further enhanced by Trojano’s stellar finger picking style of guitar playing and his use of lap steel on some tracks.

Raised in New Hampshire and the son of a drummer, Trojano never set out to become a singer-songwriter. His experiences working as a backing musician for artists like Delmhorst, Foucault, Mulvey and Chris Smither, however, changed that.

“When I first met Kris and Jeff Foucault I was writing Frank Zappa music and playing drums. I thought singer-songwriters were touchy feely and pretty lame,” said Trojano. “Somewhere on the line I decided I wanted to be one of them. I think that transition came in part from meeting and working with people like Kris, Jeff, Peter and Smither, who know how to do it right.”

And Trojano knows how to do it right. The ten songs here are the type that resonate with listeners. You will find yourself humming along to a song like “Get Me Right” while later ruminating on lines like “Don’t judge a man by the books he reads/They won’t show you what he’s got/Only what he needs,” or “ Life’s too short but it’s longer than it seems.” These songs are quiet and deceptively simple, yet beneath the surface they are bursting with complex ideas.

And what does Trojano hope that listeners will take away from “Yesterday’s Sun?”

“Nothing specific,” he said. “I hope it moves them in one way or another — some personal connection to a melody or lyric would be nice. Maybe it will keep someone from falling asleep on a long car drive. I can tell you this — it pairs well with a decent Pinot and a freshly caught brook trout.”

www.zaktrojano.com

Tickets are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. The Parlor Room is located at 32 Masonic St. in Northampton. All Ages show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

Tracy Grammer at the Arts Block

Like Trojano, Tracy Grammer wasn’t raised in Greenfield (she was raised in Florida), but she now affectionately calls the town her home. Grammer will make a return visit to the Arts Block in Greenfield on Saturday at 7 p.m. when she will be joined by her friend and multi-instrumentalist Jim Henry.

Grammer first rose to prominence on the folk music scene with her partner Dave Carter. The duo’s career was fast on the rise when Carter died suddenly in 2002, the day before the duo was scheduled to play the Green River Festival. Grammer, who plays fiddle and guitar, decided to continue on as a solo artist and over the years she has toured throughout North America, Europe and Japan. Her most recent recording was 2012’s “Little Blue Egg” which was a Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer album consisting of songs from old recordings she had discovered. It was the most-played album on folk radio for 2012.

Grammer, who records for Red House Records, is currently working on her first album of all original material and hopes to release it later this year. She is also working on a book about her life with Carter, who after years as her musical and romantic partner, came out as transgender in 2002 and made the decision to transition to female shortly before his death.

The show at the Arts Block promises to be an entertaining one. Henry, who is a well established musician on the local scene, has worked with Grammer since 2003. He is a member of the Pisteleros and Surly Temple in addition to being an in-demand backing player. Henry and Grammer share a strong musical chemistry and you can expect this show to offer superb musicianship and great harmonies, along with some funny between-song banter as well as a mix of cover tunes as well as originals by both Grammer and Henry.

Tickets are $16 in advance and $18 at the door. Advance tickets are available at: www.theartsblock.com

The Arts Block is at 289 Main St. in Greenfield. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at: soundslocal@yahoo.com


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