Asbury Park, NJ’s Francis Lombardi released his debut record, Whiskey & The Mourning After, in the latter months of 2014. It was recorded at Asbury Park staple, Lakehouse Recording Studio, right above the famed Russo Music store and literally doors away from the old Upstage Club, where a young Bruce Springsteen whittled his chops while purveying that trademark Jersey Shore sound in the twilight of the '60s and early '70s. Lombardi writes the songs Marcus Mumford thinks he does: crafty chord progressions with heady lyrics and a voice that’s equal parts noble and powerful, commanding respect with each listen.
Whiskey & The Mourning After juxtaposes different things from the norm of singer-songwriter blueprints. There are finger-picked acoustic folk gems as well as full-band numbers, with throbbing B3 organ and silky-smooth pedal steel guitar fills by former Cardinal and ex-Ryan Adams compatriot Jon Graboff. Lombardi also enlisted the six string prowess of John Eddie, and the ever-cowboy-hatted PK Lavengood, flanked by Erik Romero on bass guitar and some of that luscious B3 organ, while the rest of the organ fills and acoustic guitars are manned by Lombardi himself. And, by damn can he blow a harp! Lombardi makes sure to please all the harmonica enthusiasts on his freshman effort.
Plenty of sad songs permeate the ten-song record, though not all of them are sad. Whiskey & The Mourning After opens with a perfect introduction to the nobleness and strength of said voice with “Some Things Never Change.” It's a solo acoustic song asking the question,” If you can’t be yourself, are you really you?” It's a nod to the four main vices of man’s affliction on earth, “coffee, credit debt, scotch whiskey, cigarettes … some things may never change.”
Moving quickly to the buttery biscuit, country goodness of “I Like You (But I Don’t Like Your Friends),” a playful track highlighting Lombardi’s drunken lyrical explanation and Graboff’s sultry pedal steel licks. Full band songs like “Power And Virtue,” “California,” and personal favorite “Gin Mill,” round out a flawless debut full-length album, complete with as soulful a cover ever mustered of the Allen Collin/Ronnie Van Zandt-penned Lynyrd Skynyrd classic, “All I Can Do Is Write About It.” A feeling I know all too well, to one capacity or another.
Lombardi pulled in not one, but two Asbury Park Music Awards for Whiskey & The Mourning After, taking home Top Male/Acoustic Act and Top Local Album Release. Not too shabby for a debut record. I take a great deal of pride in flying the New Jersey folk/Americana flag. Francis Lombardi may be the first NJ native I’ve had the pleasure of writing on -- what a way to start it off! There’s a solid folk scene on the rise in Asbury Park and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it. (+words: sz+)