Zak Trojano carries a warm baritone supported by an old Martin guitar and low tuned Weissenborn lap steel. His third album, Wolf Trees is a move towards high definition from a songwriter whose pictorial lyrics are lauded for their cinematic imagery. From the driving notes of album opener “Kid’s Got Heart”, Trojano draws the curtain, with scene setting lines (the poets take it on the chin for the bells that ring right through you), on a production that provides shape and motion to the screenshot temperament of life in the modern world. Zak Trojano will release Wolf Trees on August 10. The album is available for pre-order at PledgeMusic along with a number of exclusive items and you can stream/share “Kid’s Got Heart” at Bandcamp + Soundcloud – out this Friday, June 15.
Trojano’s complex fingerstyle technique was born out of the country blues tradition through years of immersion in the work of players as diverse as John Fahey, Chet Atkins, and Merle Travis. It was the exploration of solo performance that led to the guiding aesthetic of Wolf Trees. The songs were written as movements in a larger piece, with textures and themes resurfacing in longer arcs to bind the whole together. A wolf tree is a stoic figure - a passed over remnant of a distant, wilder world, where there was more space between things. Trojano has woven nine songs into an album that’s very form calls attention to the thin rapidity of modern life. Like admiring the forest view from atop a white pine cell tower, or losing yourself in the colors of a flat-screen sunset, Wolf Trees dares us to hold tight to current beauty while we remember a different time.
Trojano opted to leave behind the lush string and horn arrangements of his last record (Yesterday’s Sun) in favor of a true solo album on which he plays and sings every note. All guitars were tuned to a low C modal tuning, and sent through various amplifiers to combine their acoustic and electric properties into a large, dark, and open sound. With the help of longtime friend and producer David Goodrich (Chris Smither, Jeffrey Foucault), and engineer Justin Pizzoferratto (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth) they captured a record delicately balanced between the acoustic intimacy of a coffeehouse and the wild volume of a midnight rock club.
“Nowhere Shuffle” is a dark, minor, ballad with a halftime groove reminiscent of a lost 70’s acoustic Pink Floyd album. It’s an oblique commentary on the modern addiction to electronic devices (Bowed heads and praying hands/nowhere with everyone at once) through the eyes of someone witnessing a Zombie apocalypse. The playful introspection of “My Room” deals with the ups and downs of solitude; the vacillation of the hermitic spirit between feeling safe and feeling alone (I’ll be fine here in my room while the roses bloom outside/how come they never come to me unless they’re cut down in their prime? I’ll bide my time). “Everyone Knows You” is epic by nature - a telescopic view of a world where everybody is famous and the worst among us have risen to the top - a rock anthem with an unusual form propelled by a rising vibrato and half-smiling social commentary (It’s the march of the egg man/boiled and white/pale as a junkie at noon watch him roll).
The title track is a reconciliation of dreams with reality with an adventurous melody that holds the listener through the trials of finding an anchor in the world (How could I begin to tell you how/easy it would be to find a place for now/in the soft light of the almost dark/where the wolf trees howl through the park for you).
In recent years, Trojano’s solo work has found the spotlight with discerning listeners everywhere. Stage by stage, in clubs, music halls, bars, and coffeehouses across the country, he has honed a live show that keeps audiences glued to the stage - like a rare conversation with an old friend who doesn’t usually say much, but plays a mean guitar.
He’s spent over a decade writing, recording and performing music professionally with Rusty Belle, the band he co-founded, and supporting touring acts like Chris Smither, Kris Delmhorst, Jeffrey Foucault and Peter Mulvey. The guitar shares the spotlight on Wolf Trees, shining through simple arrangements that coalesce around Trojano’s lyrics for music that, “is made from a whole cloth, it’s from a long time ago that feels like yesterday” (Peter Mulvey). From the old records, and the trading stories over many miles and sequestered greenrooms with greats like Smither and Foucault, Trojano has found that illusive voice that can produce a record that looks forward as much as it looks back.
Wolf Trees Track Listing
1 – Kid’s Got Heart
2 – Nowhere Shuffle
3 – My Room
4 – Everyone Knows You
5 – 99 Ways
6 – Wolf Trees
7 – Young Surrender
8 – Paper Wings
9 – Lights Are Low