“RoseAnn Fino” by RoseAnn Fino
Woodstock Records 2013
Aaron Hurwitz: piano, Hammond, keyboards, accordion, producer
John Platania: guitars
Frank Campbell: bass
Gary Burke: drums
Marie Spinosa: backing vocals, percussion
RoseAnn Fino inhabits a territory somewhere between Suzanne Vega (when she was first famous) and Lucinda Williams. She’s a fine songwriter as well as playing guitars, mandolin, ukulele and piano. The album stands out because it has a “classic Woodstock” backing from the area’s finest. It was produced by Aaron Hurwitz, who produced The 90s Band, and who adds classic Hammond organ sounds, piano, accordion and synths. Then add the great John Platania (Van Morrison, Chip Taylor) on guitar and a rhythm section of Frank Campbell on bass and Gary Burke on drums, plus Marie Spinosa on percussion and backing vocals. This means the backing is more experienced, and richer and fuller than what you’d normally expect from a young singer songwriter, and also has a definite retro edge … just as Amy Winehouse had a retro edge with Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings backing her.
The songs? The opener is Change My Mind, enhanced by John Platania’s intricate acoustic guitar work. It’s wise to put the obvious single first, even if nowadays that’s a virtual concept, but I’m torn between that as the “virtual single” and the second, City Lights, because I like the narrative / dialogue feel of City Lights, definitely further into Lucinda territory, with piano upfront instead of Hammond. The excellent band mean a long playout, a minute more than the song would get in live solo performance, but when that extra minute is John Platania on electric guitar, no one is complaining.
Aaron Hurwitz keeps the sound shifting, we had Hammond on track 1, piano on 2, so accordion whirling through track three, You And I. Accordion perfectly complements the jaunty bounce of the number. I could see this in a folkier arrangement too. At this point, I’m thinking, ‘Hmm., she could get three singles off this …’ Accordion comes later on in the album with Till The Morning. It gives a good texture for both songs.
Seventies Trousers is another involving lyric, with her ukulele contrasted with Platania’s guitar fills, with ethereal Hammond in the distance.
Hallways is interesting, a frenetic piece, where the musicians show they can sound like a much younger thrashier band with ease when the song switches pace and takes off.
Sequencing is good, because Boxed Wine starts off stripped back, a good one to remember if she has to promote in that opening support place without the band. It’ll work great with just her and guitar. So will Packed Up, the next song. No, I don’t want to lose the backing, but I can hear it working without it. And practically, I’ve seen so many support acts who have to cope with just their own resources on the road. These two in a row could be highlights.
Little Girl Lost is a radical departure, accompanying herself on piano, stylistically different, with Aaron Hurwitz adding synth and bass pedals. It wouldn’t have fitted the band.
Murder Song has the reggaefied backing feel of 461 Ocean Boulevard with clavinet wah-wah to a fascinating lyric … when he threw her to the ground, she knew that he just couldn’t live. You need to listen to the words.
My Good Friends is another in singer-songwriter territory which can work without the band … I keep looking at the practicality of presenting this live, I don’t know why. Probably hoping to see it. The closing song, Sink Your World, has the band to the forefront to excellent effect. It’s a very strong song … with the Hey! introductions it sounds like a good encore number too.
If this album gets airplay or enough word-of-mouth this album will be a strong start to a career. The band is so good, that I apologize for trying to envisage each song without it, but that’s how you judge the intrinsic quality of the songs. There’s no filler on this set at all.
A definite **** album.
LINK TO BANDCAMP.COM to sample album: