CD Review: Last Chance for a First Impression

The intimidate setting of a performer, their guitar and an audience is becoming all the more popular in clubs throughout the nation. While coffee houses and house concerts have been a popular way in recent years for an artist to closely connect with its audience, the idea has extended itself to many clubs which normally house full bands.

In Asbury Park, NJ, the Stone Pony, the Saint and Harry's Roadhouse have all hosted acoustic nights, which serve as good way for people looking to get out and enjoy music in the middle of the work week to do so, while in a low-key atmosphere.

New Jersey-based singer/songwriter Lanky has traveled around the country finding establishments which do the same, capturing those best moments on his latest EP "Last Chance for a First Impression". The CD is an example of his ability to capture a crowds' ear with skillfully-dynamic guitar strums and passionately eclectic vocals.

Another impressive aspect of the disc is the off-the-sound board capturing of Lanky's performances, which give the listener that "show night" feel through skilled mixing techniques.

"Well, the credit for it sounding good all goes to Patrick Thrasher [of Bedhead, Los Angeles, CA]," Lanky said. "He pulled the recordings together, which weren't high tech; board tapes mixed with a mini disc in the room."

While the artist's next full-length is complete, the EP is a way to capture his prior music during travels to the cities of Asbury Park, New Jersey, Chicago, Illinois, Mobile, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. The tour, however, most often hit cities in the Midwest and southeast United States, which are not included on the CD.

"The most interesting towns are the small ones, the in-between cities," Lanky said. "I love it when I find a post office or diner, where it seems time has stood still for the last 30 years. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, I really enjoy going to most of them. As a traveler that's kind of a good thing."

Choosing songs for the EP involved finding Lanky's best performances that did not contain audio problems. He decided to keep the number of songs at six. "I didn't think anyone would want 10 or 12 songs," he said. "Short but sweet. Or maybe perhaps, less is more."

"I'm not sure if there is a clear cut reason for the live EP," Lanky said. "I guess it boils down to the fact that I had a lot of new songs worked into the set last year while out promoting [Lanky's previous full-length CD] "Inner Onwriter". And by playing them so much in that context, they just stayed there. I felt like that's where they belonged and, luckily, there were recordings of them."

Crowds were also considered in song selection. "Not every night was a full house, so we took that into consideration when selecting songs as well," Lanky said.

Booking a tour like the one captured on the CD involved trying to find the right place for Lanky's style soon after his visit to each city, he said. "Booking is varied in its method," he said. "A nice smile, lavish gifts, blackmail, if necessary. Hopefully you find the right place for what you do in that particular city within the first few visits. You've got to get connected to the pulse of that town and I guess have some talent."

Lanky discovered through his acoustic tour that crowds enjoyed the intimate feel of just a solo guitar with vocals. "Many of them discovered me that way, so it was kind of the opposite end of the spectrum of the polished studio," he said. "I don't know if I want to keep spitting out the same kind of CD every time."

"Last Chance for a First Impression" includes melodically-dark originals like "Lovesick" and "True" and a well-done version of U2's "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," which was among the covers performed on the tour.

"I don't recall what I had recorded cover-wise," Lanky said. "It was just a good feel, a good night in Chicago. I remember I was feeling a bit heartbroken at the time and having some trouble singing some of my own songs. That song just said everything I wanted to say at the time. It's quite brilliant lyrically."

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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 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.