"SURRENDER" is the fourth self-released cd on ONLIEST RECORDS from The Moonlighters. They have been a fixture in the New York City music scene since 1998. The CD was recorded at Allaire Studios in upstate New York, by Mark McKenna, and utilizing more interesting production variety than their first two CDs, DREAMLAND and HELLO HEARTSTRING, which were recorded on a digital 8-track. They experimented with new sounds instead of the the straightforward production of the past records, with incredible results. Each song has its own mood and texture utilizing all accoustic instruments: lap steel, ukulele, accoustic bass and accoustic guitars. And the two harmony vocals.
"Surrender" is the first CD featuring new lap steel guitarist and composer Mike Neer, whose collaborations with lyricist Bliss Blood take the band in some decidedly fresh directions.
While the band's sound is similar, the song styles take off in unexpected stylistic innovations, including a tango with lyrics about working in a dismal factory job -- ("DIRT ROAD LIFE", a crime-jazz feeling tune with angular surrealist lyrics depicting heartache and loss -- "BROKEN DOLL", a beautiful and haunting ballad of a New York City breakup and walking to the subway in the rain -- "EVERY LITTLE RAINDROP", and the almost Ray Davies-like train song "BOXCAR WITH A VIEW", verging on pop. Another of their famous train songs bursts with energy, "SPECIAL CANNONBALL" which has lyrics inspired by the dusty Mississippi of William Faulkner and dreams of escaping to more exciting worlds. Other original tunes include the Bliss Blood composition "BIG TIMES" from an off-Broadway musical the band composed 10 songs for in 2005, and an epic journey of the tale of a showgirl discovered by Florenz Ziegfeld in the 20's for the follies called "ZIEGFELD DOLL",co-written by Bliss Blood and Carla Murray, which incorporates Mike Neer's excellent Django Reinhardt inflected fingerpicking on accoustic guitar, and "A Pretty Girl is like a Melody", the Ziegfeld Follies theme song by Irving Berlin.
The cd also contains several songs from the 1920's & 30's, "Making Wickey Wackey Down in Waikiki" and "Mission to Moscow" which showcase Mike Neer's bravura steel guitar playing, "Hold Your Man" -- the theme song from the 1933 Clark Gable/Jean Harlow pre-code film, "I'll Never Be the Same"-- popularized by recordings of Eddie Lang and Billie Holiday, "Take a Picture of the Moon", and a version of "Bali Hai". The cd ends with a light, beautiful Blood/Neer composition called "A Little Astray".
Here's a recent live review of the MOONLIGHTERS:
After intermission, "The Moonlighters" entertained. This is a four-piece group from New York City with Bliss Blood (vocal and ukulele), Carla Murray (vocal and guitar), Andrew Hall (bass) and Mike Neer (Hawaiian lap steel guitar and accoustic guitar).
Little by little, a kind of captivating magic filled the space. We entered an illusion, the glitter of New York City, the Big Apple in the flapper era. This was the roaring 1920s and the broken 30s.
The group embodies sophistication, the ritz and veneer of the city, a crafted urban distain. A kind of fanciful fun with touches of whimsy emerged. Underlying this was a "blues" theme. Their "Ziegfeld Doll" rose high, eventually done in by fast life in the city. "Broken Doll" sang of "twisted lies in paradise." We listened to the gramophone. Misery was viewed through a different lens, the grainy film of the pre-World War II years. The toughness of Depression times was celebrated.
The Moonlighters are top-flight musicians, exhibiting an excellent pair of voices, skilled ensemble playing and a rich mix of material. As their program unfolded we heard the influence of off-Broadway chic, railroad songs, film noir, and big show tunes. Their mix of original and repertoire songs was terrific. They have done clever writing, in both their lyrics and melodies. In a highly entertaining way they are recapturing a vibrant part of the roots of American music.