Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
In December, Pete Donnelly – bassist for the long-running Saratoga Springs-born band the Figgs and more recently a member of NRBQ – released “When You Come Home,” his first solo album. Actually, it’s the second if you count “Another Day on You,” a cassette of home recordings from 1999 that came out in an extremely limited edition of 50 copies.
But “When You Come Home” gets the full treatment – and hopefully exposure – that Donnelly’s songwriting deserves. There’s a stylish video by director Geoffray Barbier for the album’s irrepressibly catchy single, “Can’t Talk at All.” Artist Chris Donnelly, Pete’s cousin, provided an eye-catching linoleum cut for the album’s cover. And most of the album’s polished recording was done not at home but by Donnelly and engineer Henry Hirsch at Waterfront Studio in Hudson.
The album also features guest appearances from musical friends that Donnelly has made over the years. Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner adds guitar and vocals to “The Keeping.” Figgs guitarist Mike Gent and sultry-voiced singer Britta Phillips of Dean & Britta appear on “Careful.” And longtime NRBQ drummer Tom Ardolino played drums on the album’s title track (and a 30-second snippet of piano that ended up on the album as an interlude) not long before he died in January.
There were special guests at Valentine’s – some expected and some unexpected – when Donnelly debuted material from “When You Come Home” during a high-spirited, all-around enjoyable show opened by local indie-folk songwriter Meagan Duffy. Backed by drummer Fred Berman and bassist Adam Winokur (who played on most of the album), Donnelly shed his bass for a guitar and traded licks with Philadelphia guitarist-singer Jim Boggia throughout the night.
The set contained not just some of the best of the new material – including the Archie Bell & the Drells-referencing uplift of “Can’t Talk at All,” the rollicking “The Only One” and set-closer “When You Come Home” – but also a handful of Figgs tunes to tide fans over until the band embarks on a 25th-anniversary tour this year in support of their forthcoming double album, “The Day Gravity Stopped” (which will be out on April 17).
“I taught this one to the guys in the van,” Donnelly said before “Are You Still Mine?,” a quiet, heart-string-puller from the Figgs’ “Slow Charm” album. “I taught this one to the guys in the van too,” he announced before following that song with the insistently rocking “Nothing but Fear” from the Figgs’ previous double album “Palais.”
And the guests? Well, Boggia, a very talented singer/songwriter in his own right, performed his own tune, the nostalgic-for-vinyl “Bubblegum 45s.” Donnelly’s brother Phil Donnelly – who plays drums with local sonic explorers Burnt Hills and sat in with Century Plants during their opening slot for Rangda on Monday night at Valentine’s – came onstage to add vocals on a bash through the Ramones’ “Beat on the Brat.” And local singer Olivia Quillio was drawn from her spot at the bar to take over the stage for a dramatic, impromptu guest vocal turn on John Lennon’s ode to primal familial pain, “Mother.”
PETE DONNELLY SET LIST
The Only One
Break Through Silence
Hear It from Me First
Can’t Talk at All
Wait Til Dawn
Bubblegum 45s (Jim Boggia)
Are You Still Mine?
Nothing but Fear
Mother (John Lennon)
Please, One More Time
When You Come Home
Beat on the Brat (The Ramones)