Cory Chisel

Cory Chisel

Old Believer \ Ōld bǝ-l ēvǝr\ n 1 : one who has been through a lot in their life and hasn’t lost hope 2 : one who doesn’t feel cynical and still feels connected to the world that we’re living in but is wise enough to know a thing or two about it 3 : OLD SOUL

Cory Chisel is an old believer. You can hear it in his music – there’s a wisdom beyond his years in that voice. You can see it in his story – the son of a preacher, sheltered from pop music, raised on hymns and Johnny Cash. “Mom played piano and organ, my dad did the preaching, the thing that my sister and I could add to the service was to sing.” As fate would have it, the kid was born to do it.

He grew up in the iron range town of Babbit Minnesota, and the rural flatlands of Appleton Wisconsin. Along with the family’s spiritual doctrine came a musician uncle, who taught Cory about the blues: Howlin Wolf, Robert Johnson, Sony Boy Williamson.

This musical education put young Cory on a path that was well worn by the greats who came before him and influenced him. People like Cash, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. For Cory, songwriting is a byproduct of existing. We all talk to ourselves. Cory does so with a melody. Those internal conversations are the seeds, the building blocks of his songs. “Where a painter, in order to express himself, would reach for a canvas and paints, I go to the guitar and try to build it out. Or sometimes songs just come fully formed, usually if I’m really sleep-deprived and driving for whatever reason, it’s like a radio station that my brain picks up.”

Old Believer is the second LP from Cory Chisel & The Wandering Sons. The record, in Cory’s words, is about rebuilding, and there’s a directness that comes through in the songwriting. “Life is a series of creating things, living with the inevitable destruction of those things, and then finding within yourself the ability to create again.”

There’s brutal honesty in the soulful rock of “I’ve Been Accused”. The song suggests that sometimes with personal growth comes unhappiness, but ultimately you’ve got to step up. No pain, no gain. “Never Meant To Love You” is timeless, like something straight out of “The Great American Songbook.” It’s a story of unexpected love, plainly and elegantly told. For “Please Tell Me” Cory says “I went to my guitar instead of going to a phone and sent the message that way.” “Seventeen” deals beautifully with the simple truth of realizing that a certain portion of your life has passed. Cory Chisel is an old believer.

The album was recorded in Nashville and produced by a great singer songwriter in his own right, Brendan Benson (The Raconteurs). The two met while making Cory’s first album. They sat down to write a song together, and quickly found they were kindred spirits. “We had just such a common language in the way we attacked music making. Brendan is really great at bringing direction and bringing something out of me that is almost indescribable. He’s also the guy who can get behind the boards and pull it off.”

What Benson pulls off is an album of rich, authentic, rock and roll, drawing a straight line between the gospel and the blues of Cory’s youth, and classic rock. He’s able to find the right space and color for each song, whether it’s the dangerous and dark mood of “Foxgloves”, the bright Brill Building meets Graham Nash vibe of “Laura”, or the straight up traditional rollin’ and tumbin’ blues of “Over Jordan”.

The sound is filled out by a great cast of Nashville players including Matt Scibilia, Jon Graboff and Brad Pemberton of The Cardinals (Ryan Adams) and The Howlin Brothers. But the thing that truly brings this record to life is Chisel’s long time keyboard player and singing partner Adriel Harris. Their voices fit together magically. It’s a fitting nod to her contribution that Harris opens Old Believers with the gorgeous prologue- “This Is How It Goes.”

“I think one of the best things about being a songwriter and about living a life as an artist is that you really don’t get rid of anything, you kind of just like drag it with you the rest of your life and hopefully you can feel that on this record. We’re still dancing with those same inspired moments. This record is a culmination of all that.”

Brian Dolzani

As our world is becoming increasingly ungrounded, digital, virtual, and screen-based, as people feel more disconnected and intangible than ever, we are seeing a movement towards and appreciation of the classic, the tangible, and in music, the lone troubadour and the song. Enter Brian Dolzani and his new record, ‘A Place That I Can Feel’.

With veteran musicians Jimmy Johnson on bass (Roy Orbison, Little Richard) and Billy Thomas on drums (Vince Gill), Brian and producer Scott McEwen (Patrick Sweany, Bobby Bare Jr.) recorded to 16-track analog tape, mastered to ¼-inch reel, using gear from the 1960’s in a 1930’s-era pharmacy-turned-recording studio, aka Fry Pharmacy in Old Hickory, TN. ‘It was magic that day,’ says McEwen. ‘We recorded the 5 full band songs on the first day, and the vibe and, truly, the magic was there and we were able to capture it. That’s what recording to tape is like. You either get it or you don’t. And luckily, that day, we got it.’

The other 5 tracks are more stripped-down, acoustic recordings where Brian played all instruments yet retained this one-take-performance style. The gamble of recording live to tape is something that Brian immediately appreciated, and recognizes as a key ingredient to the classic records he, and many of us, loves. The overall sound of ‘Place’ has this classic, key ingredient.

Brian is a classic troubadour in the lineage of Petty, Springsteen, Browne, Young, and he has put his years of songwriting experience into his latest record. ‘I love pulling from multiple, stricter genres such as country, pop, blues, rock and roll,’ Brian explains, ‘then breaking out of those boundaries and just trying to write a great song that hopefully transcends those elements and becomes as big and wide as possible.’

On ‘A Place That I Can Feel’, Brian crafts meaningful, relatable lyrics that are astute and intriguing, often forthright and simply stated, such as the first track ‘I Belong’: ‘I belong / I belong / wherever I am / I’ll take my stand / upon this land,’ and in ‘Opposites’: ‘Opposites / opposites / attract they do / especially for a boy like me / and a girl like you’. His impeccably steady and strong guitar playing keeps the ground under these choruses, and the tight rhythm section grooves hard on the Tom Petty-meets-Cars-meets-Creedence ‘Am I OK’.

A little later in the record we hear Brian’s take on relationship and fondness for another classic staple of music enjoyment, vinyl: ‘I love beauty and release / a cup of hot coffee / when I’m feeling sad / buying vinyl ain’t bad.’ His electric guitar playing also comes front and center on ‘Ocean Life’, a Neil Young-like rocker with two guitar solos, in the style of a classic Neil song: ‘Ride the waves / ride the waves / on this ocean life’.

Brian was born and raised in Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and young family. With his split of Northern-bred and Southern-heart, Brian is consistently on the road, from New England, up and down the east coast, to Nashville, the Midwest, and Texas, hitting many prime Americana venues, listening rooms, and record store in-stores along the way, widening the reach of his songs and highly engaging live performances.

The music that Brian was exposed to early on was through his dad’s record collection, mostly Beatles and Beach Boys, and the first record Brian’s father gave him was Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ ‘Get Happy!!’. 'I knew nothing of Elvis Costello at the time, and the neon LP cover was a bit weird,' Brian laughs, 'but I knew one thing, that my dad had great musical taste.' Brian lost his father in a car accident shortly after this initial musical exposure, when Brian was just fifteen. In Brian’s memory, that’s the exact moment the universe (more specifically, his grandmother) gave him an acoustic guitar, and he, like most teenagers, yet with understandably more angst and confused and hurt feelings, channeled his life into music. Even though that was a long time ago, the artistic personality never quite lets go, and is still able to conjure up these deep feelings of longing and loss, such as in the song ‘How Long’ from this new record (‘I can’t wait / to see you again / how long / how long’).

Throughout the 10 songs on ‘A Place That I Can Feel’, we are taken on a journey of personal and universal feelings that culminates in a road song called ‘Crooked Road’, inspired from the Crooked Road Appalachian music trail that winds through Virginia: ‘Oh this crooked road / the one that pulls my soul / oh this crooked road / the one that makes me go / take me home / take me home’.

Brian explains the title of the record: ‘It’s a line from the first song. I relate it to keeping in touch with my emotions in order to know what I feel and that I feel connected to myself and what’s around me. I think it’s important to keep this connection with where we are, what’s around us, and make sure that we feel something about where we are, as well as who we are.’

As we look to the past as well as the future to quell any sense of unease, to seek ourselves in a deeper way, or to find a familiar ‘place’ that we can live and believe in, Brian Dolzani will return you to a familiar and necessary form – the felt, the tangible, the record, the singer, and the song.

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