A heartbreaker on his own, keyboardist Benmont Tench of the Heartbreakers breaks off from the driving blues of Tom Petty’s long-time classic rock band to sit down at the Steinway and write sweet songs that will be remembered as a long-awaited breakout album.
“You Should Be So Lucky” carries heavily the influence of the Heartbreakers with the clean piano carrying through with the organ, which is doing its traditional job of laying down singing chords over the electric guitar punched out through the Twin Reverb amplifier.
Tench’s voice sounds like decades of cigarettes and whiskey – a little raspy and full of character, just like his bandmate Tom Petty on his latest album, “Mojo,” which we can all pretend never happened. It may remind the listener of a cross between Joe Strummer and David Bowie, but much darker.
“Ecor Rogue” is the perfect fusion of lounge jazz and mellow blues. The drummer masterfully brushes the snare under Tench’s blue piano riffs and pings the ride cymbal along with the cool upright bass. Splashes of orchestral strings and subtle guitar plucks are heard throughout.
In “Hannah,” Tench shows off his vocals over a backdrop of mellow piano and congas. The soothing rotary organ solo features bittersweet melodies that get inside your soul like hot chocolate after a long day in the snow.
The title track features a more driving rock n’ roll rhythm with quicker drum work. Tench explains to his intended listener, “You should be so lucky / But now your luck is almost up.”
Just when you thought you heard everything that Tench has in store, you hear the 10th track, “Wobbles.” This song gets to my love of Spanish piano jazz. I cannot respectfully compare it to a Chick Corea piece, but it sticks out and displays his appreciation for much more than just blues and rock.
The second to last song, “Why Don’t You Quit Leavin Me Alone” is a dark singer-songwriter tune that describes his troubles with a relationship and the sadness and melancholy one can feel when given the cold shoulder by a loved one.
“A cold hard rain comes pouring down / It wasn’t like this last time around,” says Tench.
The album closes up with a quick, fun tune titled, “Duquesne Whistle.” It features a bright ragtime-feeling piano solo. This leaves the listener on a good note. It reminds me of something that would be easy to listen to in the morning to get me up and moving.
Many of the tracks feature traditional folk building blocks, but have a wide range of influences that add to the vast creativity, running the gamut of rock and even jazz influences.
Like Tench explains in “Dogwood,” “I’m a man without a direction. / I’m a ship without a sea. / Meet me at the resurrection / Say you’ll save a place for me.” Whether or not they know it yet, most classic rock fans will find themselves becoming a fan of Benmont Tench and will save a place for him in their record collection.