Guitar great Charlie Hunter’s performance at the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival last month was washed out when the mid-afternoon rain storm abruptly cut the festival short.
But Hunter’s fans will have three opportunities to catch him in action during the next week and a half when he teams up with drummer Scott Amendola for a series of performances in support of the duo’s new collaborative album, Not Getting Behind Is the New Getting Ahead, which was released last week.
The duo will step into the spotlight at Red Square in Albany on Thursday (October 11), followed by shows at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Wednesday, October 17 and Club Helsinki in Hudson on Friday, October 19.
Hunter’s first album of original material in three years, Not Getting Behind Is the New Getting Ahead is a collection of 10 songs that were recorded with both musicians playing in the same room simultaneously, with no headphones. And there’s no mixing, editing or overdubs on the album, either. The album was recorded straight to two-track analog 1/4-inch tape.
“Our intention in making this record was to tell a bunch of stories around the central theme of the album’s title,” says Hunter. “The new tunes are meant to evoke some of the things you might see in your travels through the USA these days. Scott and I wanted to think of each composition as a starting point for some kind of narrative. I think about all the great music I like, everything I listen to and try to absorb, and I ask myself, how can I tell the story with the kind of music that I love?”
The picture that Hunter and Amendola paint with Not Getting Behind Is the New Getting Ahead is not necessarily a pretty one, and thematically album mourns the rapidly vanishing American dream in the face of today’s dire economic struggles.
“I love the nooks and crannies of the US, and this album is for the people living in these places,” says Hunter, pointing out one of the new songs, “Rust Belt,” in particular. “I’ve been touring the country my whole life, and I wrote this song while traveling. It’s a shout-out to people that live in places with a real Americana lifestyle – the Midwest, like Chicago, Detroit, Youngstown, Buffalo – places that have the whole toughness mentality: get the job done with pride.
“‘Ghost Mall’ is my favorite title on the album,” notes Hunter. “When you are on the road, they are building all these malls, all the time, so fast that the malls built 15 years ago are now being replaced with new malls and the old malls are now becoming abandoned. I grew up with mom and pop stores that no longer exist. Now, all interactions are done on a corporate level at so many places.”
Another of the album’s songs, “There Used to Be a Nightclub There,” laments the vanishing cultural landscape. “Right now there is a passing of a whole era,” Hunter says. “I grew up in nightclubs. I gigged first at 15 years old. I watched people that just amazed me. Clubs were hubs of culture, and in a lot of ways they were so spontaneous. You didn’t need a grant to keep it open; they were cultural meeting places, and so many great things come out of them. In Berkeley, California, where I grew up, all those places are now gone. It was a town where there was a musician class. Now, you can feel that culture is disappearing.”
Here’s where you can find Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola performing:
Thursday (October 11), 8pm
Red Square, Albany
Tix: $12 in advance; $18 at the door
Wednesday, October 17, 7pm
Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton
Tix: $17.50 in advance; $20 at the door
Friday, October 19, 9pm
Club Helsinki, Hudson
Tix: $18 in advance; $20 at the door