“There are no second acts in American lives,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald. But he never reckoned with John Raido.
After a decade of working every gin joint in New Jersey as a journeyman rock ‘n’ roll sideman, John Raido introduced himself to the public with the melancholy See You Next Tuesday. It was followed by the far more accomplished and eclectic Turnin’ Round, which saw singer/songwriter Raido stepping out as frontman of the band Boxcar Nancy. The group’s playful blend of alt-country pop and wistful ballads won Raido a whole new audience, one which will undoubtedly shake their heads in wonder at the quantum leap he takes on the appropriately titled Act Two. The home-studio DIY recording approach and bar-band simplicity of Turnin’ Round has given way to a sumptuous studio cornucopia of sound, elegantly produced by music industry vet Tom Gioia. Programming and editing was handled by Andy Snitzer, who has done similar work with Bon Jovi, Elvis Costello, REM, Destiny's Child, Miles Davis, Moby, Vanessa Williams and Sophie B. Hawkins. To realize his vision for this album, John recruited a stellar cast of backup musicians and singers to play behind him, professionals whose credits range from work with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to Roberta Flack, Al Green, Jeffrey Gaines, and The O’Jays. The infusion of elegant lead guitar lines, sonorous keyboard fills, and soulful backup vocals expands Raido’s musical palette a thousandfold; and yet, at the center of these ten beautiful tracks, Raido remains himself - a rueful, contemplative Everyman, battered by love and bruised by life, with a voice as craggy and workaday as the view from the New Jersey Turnpike.
Love comes in many shapes and colors and Raido captures them all here, in love songs that range from resignation and regret (“Too Late For Goodbye”) to guarded optimism (“What Can I Do,” “Shelter”) to good-natured pessimism (the delightfully trippy, Van Morrison-esque “Bad News.”) When love finally flowers – as it does on “It’s Only You,” a life-embracing duet with the Cucumbers’ Deena Shoskes – it’s a many-splendored thing. But you already knew that. What you didn’t know is that John Raido’s back, without his band but with a collection of songs that will sweep you off your feet and brighten your day. The curtain’s going up on Act Two.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, eat your heart out.
-Jim Testa, Jersey Beat