Singer/songwriter’s third CD offers a soulful collection of songs with a perfect touch of groove
Ed Randazzo is a man at ease. Relaxing on the sofa of his stylishly kept apartment on the west side of the Wyoming Valley, he announces with a smile that this is the place where it all happens. This is where he writes songs. A painting of Nina Simone serves as the centerpiece of his living room. A laptop on the coffee table is how he records his demos. And walks around his neighborhood often serve as his muse. It’s all there. And it can all be found on his new CD, If You Don’t Bring Me Joy (Be On Your Way).
The album, Randazzo’s third, is the follow up to 2009’s See That My Grave Is Kept Clean and 2012’s Show and Tell. Like its predecessors, it was produced by Bret Alexander at Saturation Acres Recording Studio. And though its music comes with a distinct blues/pop/roots influence, it combines those elements with a positive vibe. It is his finest work to date.
“It’s life,” says Randazzo of the music. “A lot of it is heartache. I love a sad song. I love those kind of songs that rip you open, turn you inside out and then they catch you when you’re about to jump. You’re wiping tears away, but it feels good. But with this record, for me, I’ve stepped more into the light. Every song has rhythm. You can dance to every song. But there’s still heartache there. There’s a nice balance between light and dark.”
Randazzo, 37, says he’s written poetry and song verses most of his life, dating back to his days in high school and college. Later, he began singing in nightclubs, just for fun, and when people were moved by his rich singing voice, he first began to think about setting his words to music. He says that much of his inspiration for songwriting comes from walking, explaining that though he suffers from a mild case of cerebral palsy, he is able to drive if he wishes to do so, but he chooses not to. And that, he says, has helped open his eyes to many songs.
“As a non-driver, and as somebody that primarily walks to where I need to go, I’m able to sort of slow down,” Randazzo said. “I’m forced to. So I’m able to pay attention to what’s going on. I’m not as distracted. I was in the marching band when I was in high school and I still have that cadence. When I find myself walking around in everyday life, I tend to still hear a cadence. If I go to the corner to the post office and I come back, stuff starts developing. Rhythms start coming and words come. And I rush home and scribble it down.”
Tracks on the new album include the title track, “I Need A Woman,” “A Work Song,” “Mama” and “Stars.” Musicians include Alexander, Tom Smallcomb, Eddie Appnel, Dustin Drevitch, Tom Martin, Adam Sorber and Mark Woodyatt. Randazzo says his approach to songwriting is simple: He pens the lyrics, he records them a cappella with a melody, adds some reverb and sends the recordings to Alexander. Later in the studio, with the help of Alexander and other musicians, they become songs.
“Bret’s a great editor,” Randazzo said. “I think that’s what everybody needs in their life. You need a good editor. And the thing that’s great about this record — and I’ve done this on every record that I’ve done — is that every artist who plays on it is able to be themselves. I don’t give a script. You can hear something and say, ‘That’s a Bret thing,’ or ‘That’s an Ed thing’ or ‘That’s a Dustin thing.’ On this record, Bret is the light. Whenever the signature goes up and the tempo is kind of raised out of the depths of where Ed likes to be, that’s Bret. That’s Bret’s thing. I’m there. And Bret’s there. Everybody’s there, and we all kind of hang out, and it’s nice. Everybody is able to be themselves.”
Randazzo names Simone (of course), Bill Withers, Natalie Merchant and Annie Lennox among his biggest influences. He says he sees music as therapy and as a way to connect with others, and adds that he’s been delighted with the initial reaction to the CD, which is available at Gallery of Sound, Musical Energi, Embassy Vinyl, CD Baby and iTunes. A CD release party held last week was a sold-out event.
“There is a current about this record,” Randazzo said. “There’s something about it. People that have heard it have said, ‘It’s so full’ or ‘It’s got so much body.’ I just hope they get out of it what I put into it. We put so much love into this project. There was this movement, and once we started, and once the bar was raised, or once I raised that bar for myself, I knew I had to keep it up there. What’s there is my best right now. In 2009, that was my best. In 2012, that was my best. And this is the best that I am right now.”