By Jim Fusco:
As a “Yankee” from up here in Connecticut, I honestly had no idea if I would be able to relate to Meade Skelton’s new album, “Meade Music”. With song titles like, “Sweet Tea”, “Old South”, and “Me And My Horse”, would I really understand the sentiments Meade was trying to convey in his music? Up in Connecticut, sweet tea is bought pre-brewed at Stop & Shop and I see a horse about once a year grazing in some rich person’s sprawling yard. As I said, I really wasn’t sure what to expect…
So, I started to play the album…and smiled. It only took one listen for me to realize that the smile on my face was due to Meade’s sincerity, piano-playing skills, and and songwriting ability. But, we’ll get to that soon. First, some background:
Meade Skelton is a singer/songwriter/piano player from Richmond, VA. This is not the first of his albums reviewed here at the Laptop Sessions music video blog, but it’s the first one I’ve reviewed, so his music was a new experience for me. Meade and his Meadow Street Band are a very active group, and I can see why. One look at “Meade’s Place” (the name for his website at http://www.meadeskeltonsplace.com) and you can see the passion Meade has for his music. His dedication is inspiring, actually.
There are a few stand-out elements of Meade’s album. First is his superb piano playing. He plays with passion. He also plays to fill the sound out (there isn’t much guitar on the album, save for a really great lap steel guitar here and there), but he never does too much. The jangly upright piano style is perfectly suited for his little bit country/little bit rock’n’roll music. Probably the best element of this album is Meade’s singing voice. It’s strong in the right places, but he never screams. It’s got a clear sound with just the right amount of melancholy. He uses that down-south vibrato at times, but thankfully he never over-does it. The only element I’m not too fond of on the album is the drumming, as it’s off-tempo at many times, which detracts from the listening experience. If a more country sound is what Meade was going for on this album, then a bona fide country drummer would’ve been better than conforming a rock drummer to that alternate style. Though, I would love to hear these songs played with a rock drum beat, just for the heck of it.
The overall style of sound on “Meade Music” reminds me of the Byrds when they went into their country phase. It’s a sophisticated sound that sounds like country at first, but really has many elements of a rock’n’roll background. But, the best part of Meade’s songwriting actually harks to a different style of songwriter: Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. You see, upon first listen, many Beach Boys classic songs can be written off as “happy fluff”. But, Brian Wilson always had a great knack of integrating a sadder undertone to his music. It showed that his music came from the heart and a place of innocence. Meade may be singing about memories of the bus he used to take in “Old Bus 48”, but the minor chord changes Meade throws in throughout the album give the listener a feeling of a somber remembrance- it’s the feeling that, while Meade looks back with fondness, he also misses those good ol’ days. I think that’s what gives “Meade Music” some great staying power. And, the fact that he uses his reflection on the past so well made me relate to the songs I thought were way out of my comfort-zone, like I mentioned earlier.
My favorite track on the album is “Before You Go”, a late-album gem. The general sound reminds me of The Turtles’ classic “Eleanore”. The subject matter is a little more serious than on the rest of the album, that is, “Before You Go” is more upfront about it. This is the song I would play for any prospective listener first.
Meade’s new album is available everywhere, but you should look for it on Amazon.com (mp3 digital download here) and at CD Baby (on CD here). Also, available in August 2012, you can purchase the album on vinyl, which I think would suit this album wonderfully. You should definitely give this album a listen and check out the rest of Meade’s Music on his website!