Danny White

CD Review: Beautifully Preserved Wrecks

Beautifully Preserved Wrecks (Speak True Records) is Danny White's ode to the rock n' roll he adored in the past and an example of the young artist's drive to make innovative, sonically challenging music with sparse chord use. Raw and bare to the bone is what this album is, but it's also melodic and diverse.

From the jingle-jangle jump of "Feels Alright", to the dark waltz of "Slow Dancing", White's songs present him well as a musician; not overreaching, yet showcasing his ability to be eclectic while straightforward.

White's lyrics are a sly, witty and devilishly clever representation of his reality. Whether the experiences he sings about are not his own or not, they can soothe a relationship's break-up blues. The words of his songs never shy away from the pain these situations bring: "Got to stop my brain from working / These thoughts are making me sick / His filthy hands all over your body / His tongue licking your lips" ("The Press"). This song's not about getting over a broken relationship, it's more along the lines of the harsh emotions felt from it. White ends the song singing lyrics which cut right into the confusion someone feels when trying to get on with their lives, "I should know not to be too sentimental / Or get so temperamental / When you make it all sound so consequential / And make me feel like a day-late video rental."

"There's a little of a punk attitude to that song," said White. "I see that as that kind of song." The song's motif is a video-game type guitar riff and some well-spaced quick strums. Its lyrics are cleverly harsh.

White focused on balancing bounce with gloom to produce a more varied CD. "It's really trying to find a balance," he said. "All the favorite albums that I listen to, they took you on a journey." If you pay close attention to the lyrics, Wrecks tells a story when read forward and backwards. "(It's) not a book story, but it sets a scene," said White. If you start with the last song, "Alright After All", and read it back to the first, "You Got a Good Thing Going," it tells a different story than reading it straight through from the beginning.

White displays his signature sound and well represents himself on this one. Even the straight-ahead rockers contain some type of melodic nuance to set it apart from a standard Stonesy tune. To help with nuances, he experimented for the first time with loops, samples, and drum machines. "Slow Dancing" is one of his more eclectic waltzes that reveals how White's use of studio creativity adds to his songwriting range. "One of the cool things about a song like that is it's hard to classify," he said. "It's rock, but hopefully it's a little bit of something different." He had some help producing this one. "Bob Avallone, who helped co-produce that, is big into samples and sounds. I was, like, let's see what you've got."

White does a lot of his own instrumentation in the studio; playing guitar, keyboards, percussion, harmonica and whatever else he could use to enhance his music. He put his own stamp on his songs, and added some top-quality talent, including guitarist Rob Michael, bassist Sean Casta, drummers Dr. Thomas Bruno and Steve Carter, keyboardist Jim Long and other local musicians who came to help out. This put some quality Jersey Shore energy behind it all. White gave these guys some rough versions of his songs and let them contribute their skill and input.

White said he has a tendency to struggle more over writing rockers as oppose to slower songs. He brought up "Rage On (Providence Queen)", from his first album, Is This All, as a fast song he labored over. "That took a lot of work," he said. "A lot of times I write the words first. I had the music for that for a while. I knew it would be good." He had trouble with the lyrics, but was eventually pleased with the result.

"Feels Alright" begins with an attention-grabbing harmonica part and doesn't let the listener go. It's the album's most upbeat track, with lyrics begging the listener to follow its title's directions. White said the bridge in this one took a while, but the main parts came quick. He knew it needed something that wasn't generic and would give the song a departure. The result was the "Thunder Road"-esque bridge: "Well this little town's so quiet / Let's you and me start a late-night riot / Someday soon you'll look back and laugh / And remember how fast this all passed." It continues with a reprise of the opening harmonica intro.

He again echoes his sentiment that the art of creating an upbeat rocker isn't as easy as it looks. "A lot of them can come off one-dimensional and really lame," he said. "Really trite and lame." Sometimes avoiding triteness means putting your guitar down and searching for some inspiration. "You Got a Good Thing Going" was written title first, but the inspiration came when White wound up in Freehold one day and saw a Spanish girl standing on the side of the street wearing a red bandana. "She's got a red bandana / Tied around her old blue jeans / She's got California blonde hair and teenage dreams," begins the track and the album. It moves on with songs about young love, lust and the thoughts and emotions that occur from it. He makes it clear that these thoughts and emotions are sometimes euphorically pleasant, but they also can be harshly frustrating.

The album's title fits well with its theme, but according to White that wasn't planned. "As a musician, I am up really late at night," he said. "I kind of get hooked on the History Channel and A&E. It's just something they said in passing one night. It just really stuck with me." It also developed into a thought-provoking song. "I liked the title so much, I thought it had to be a song," he said.

Sometimes a little luck can go a long way in the creative process.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.