Joseph Tonelli – “Lone Crow”/”Feather In My Hat” – Singles Review
It’s not all that often that I get to brag about discovering an artist that’s been able to seriously impress me twice within the same year. As busy as the independent music-scene is…even the best of writers out there often need that time away to come back and create something stronger or different from what we’ve just heard. Sometimes though…sometimes you end up discovering an artist that is just at the verge of stepping into their own – an artist like Joseph Tonelli. Discovering his music for the first time on his album Dust & Snow – I knew I wasn’t just hearing someone lucking their way out to great songwriting…accidents like that don’t exist on a full-album…and what I heard on that record was certainly no accident at all. If anything…I’d have called Dust & Snow a true labor of love; including all the pain & beauty of our emotions that come with the experience. The record has sat on a shortlist for our upcoming Best New Sound reader-vote this year since I heard it – but even I knew that as good as I thought Joseph might be already by that point…I believed, and still believe, that this singer/songwriter is going to go on to truly be remembered for his insightful, storytelling Americana-Folk-Indie tunes.
I mean…that’s what the great songwriters out there are isn’t it – storytellers? You can hear that vein runs deep throughout Tonelli’s material from every corner you listen to. The second song on this split-single he’s released, “Feather In My Hat” should easily remind you of a young version of The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Not the mainstream-Steen that everyone pumps fists and rocks out to…the real one that’s been underneath the surface the entire time. Tonelli uses clever combinations of imagery in his words that recall his subtle observational style and reflective, thoughtful tones. Much like many of those inspirational songwriters that have paved the way for him here on “Feather In My Hat” – he’s telling his tale of travels and experience in a warm, inviting way that sounds completely honest, raw & real. Also much like many of the great folk-singers…it’s not always about getting each note in the vocals to come out with completely smoothed-out corners and rounded-edges – it’s about letting them ring out with their honest intentions and sentiment becoming something you can truly hear. The words transform into feelings, those feelings into genuine emotions and attachment to the endearing way that singers like Joseph approach their material. Character – you could call it that; and this strong element of folk-music can truly become what defines it when you pull it all off as convincingly as Joseph does. We don’t love or idolize or listen to folk-singers that don’t have character – I can tell you that for a fact; we need these charismatic and charming ideas brought to life in the way you hear Joseph Tonelli do it on “Feather In My Hat” – that’s the kind of captivating realness in a performance that resonates throughout time and makes a song truly last. Excellent ideas soar beautifully from the guitars as the notes overlap and crossover each other dreamily while the vocals satisfy with their gritty, melodic-tones. You get that real sense that change is in the air from “Feather In My Hat” through this tale from Tonelli…he’s got a great way with words that creates visual imagery you can easily see in your mind…you get to go right with him into his world and experiences through the words he writes.
And okay…I know I wrote this ‘backwards’ in the sense that I’m talking about the side-A track “Lone Crow” at the end of the review instead of the beginning…but don’t take that as either a mistake or any kind of musical-smiting…perhaps think about it as potentially saving the best for last. As much as I loved “Feather In My Hat” – I cannot tell you any lies – “Lone Crow” is where it’s at for me.
The short answer as to why is because it’s pure musical genius and a real moment in time…but I’ll go into that a bit more for ya…
The instrumentation of “Lone Crow” is sparkling and absolutely stunning. I’m not even completely sure what he’s using here to form the melody…that could very well be a mandolin or a ukulele…combined with strings, guitar, percussion and atmosphere you can lose yourself in – “Lone Crow” is a landmark song for Tonelli in my opinion. I absolutely loved it. In a way…the vocals in the verse actually reminded me of a similar flow you can find in the opening track, “The World At Large” by Modest Mouse on their Good News For People Who Love Bad News album…but any comparisons would end there. Everything else is blissfully different and compelling to listen to as it builds…and the chorus is more than worth the wait. While it simplifies to a couple lines on repeat, the hypnotic beauty in the message of his words and the way that Tonelli sings this makes it extraordinary. Excellent backup vocals to assist in strengthening the moment and make it fully-captivating to listen to – “Lone Crow” is a genuinely stunning moment in music you can’t forget – I know I won’t. Incredible textures and tones in this beautiful atmosphere he’s created…unforgettable really.
Massively impressed by Joseph once again here…and I can already hear the further evolution of his music from what I heard on Dust & Snow to what I’m hearing now on “Lone Crow”/”Feather In My Hat” – he’s making the right choices and continuing to progress just as how I personally thought he would.
I try not to be too boastful here on the pages…I’m a humble guy…and I know Joseph is one as well…
…but I sincerely hope I can look back on these pages one day and smile realizing how right I was about Tonelli…long after he’s gone on to become a defining voice/sound in the storytelling world of folk-music and is playing shows night after night to crowds all over the globe. It’s absolutely in the cards and future for this artist…remember you heard it here first!
Find out more from his official page at: http://josephtonelli.com/
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