I had but one thought when Chris Estey sent me this 45rpm pressing of Spinnin’ Wheels from singer-songwriter Jeremy D’Antonio: this guy really knows me. Chris is a publicist that I’ve worked with over the last couple of years, and we have a lot in common when it comes to music. We’ve never met, but he still has a knack for sending me the really good stuff from the indie world. He knows I need subtext, something that suggests either deep layers of meaning or, more importantly, sounds great.
I bring this up because on the surface, Jeremy D’Antonio is interested in musical history. His brand of Americana is decidedly old-school, like Hank Williams’ idea of old school, the type of country music you’d listen to on the AM radio in your ’55 Studebaker. You know, down by the levy, with your friends, out in the middle of nowhere. This is haunting stuff, isolated by memories and incredibly simple times.
There’s something live and real about the five tunes on this EP–four originals from D’Antonio and a cover of John Prine‘s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”–and this is where the subtext (or context) comes in. On the surface, Jeremy D’Antonio sounds like a country singer. Not Americana, not bluegrass, not country-rock from LA in the ’70s, but real country, the stuff forged out of folk music and slowly turned on the spit until it’s perfect. I don’t really like country music, but I make exceptions when there’s subtext. In this case, that subtext is sincerity, of making music that was pure and genuine once upon a time.
You know, maybe like John Prine. Or Hank Williams.
I do think Jeremy D’Antonio imbues his vocals with an affectation that borders on parody–if he turned it up a few notches he’d sound a little too much like Scuzz Twittly or someone else trying to be a little too irreverent. But the restraint he shows matters, especially when supported by a superb band that rotates such performers as drummer Jim Christie, steel guitarist Jay Dee Maness and many others. (The album’s closer, “Crawlin’ Out of My Skin,” features a different line-up.) Spinnin’ Wheels goes by quickly, as great EPs tend to do. But if you miss John Prine terribly, this might offer a healthy dose of consolation.