Crossroads Blues Society Music Reviews

Todd Lorenz has created the character of aging bluesman Snuffy Wilson who could be any aged bluesman looking back and reflecting on his life and the choices he made, dwelling especially on all that he has lost in his life.

Lorenz embarks on a lot of big projects. His “write a song a week” project from a few years ago was a huge commitment that resulted in 52 tracks laid down over four CDs. In this one he has created a man that is a little bit him and a little bit any blues man.

He sings with a lot of pain and suffering, confidence and doubt, loves won and lost, and generally depicting what happens as the years wear us away and break us down. It is a very creative effort.

Lorenz plays some expressive acoustic guitar throughout. Whether it be a soft lamenting ballad like “When Liza Cries” or a bolder and driving “I’m The King”. Lorenz shows us he is in control of his instrument. Never overstated, he picks and fingers his way expressively throughout the entire CD.

The vocals are a bit behind his guitar work developmentally . I’m not sure if it’s trying to be overly expressive or what that causes the problems I’m hearing. It sounds like Todd is trying to be someone else at times instead of just being himself. He’s not off key, it just sounds like he’s over emoting.

The CD overall is quite interesting and Lorenz displays he is becoming quite the folk blues songwriter. His fretwork is really well done. “Need to Be Free” and “Redemption?” are great examples of his guitar work.

This is a very interesting body of music that Todd has put together here. An ambitious musical autobiography of a man’s toils and struggles– I was intrigued and impressed throughout.

Crossroads Blues Society Music Reviews

52 songs in 52 weeks is a Herculean effort, and Todd Lorenz proved that he was up to the task. I’ve listened to all four volumes now (I reviewed V1 and V2 in our November-December 2008 Crossroads Blues Society Newsletter) and I can honestly say that this was a true labor of love. Are there 13 songs on each CD that I would go crazy over and recommend from start to finish? No, but there are many good ones and all of them are marked with the proud imprint of this kindly big man.

What impressed me most on these newest CDs (and really in all of Todd’s body of work) is his meticulous guitar work. Whether Lorenz is playing the blues, rock, or folk, his guitar work seems to float and flow effortlessly. It amazes me to hear the fine fingering and picking. He is a bear of man, but the gentleness and touch he has with the six strings belie his size and power. The guitar prowess he displays continues to improve and refine with time. I think you’ll be impressed with it.

His voice is also quite unique. In the lower registers he growls and evokes some darkness with the deep natural timbers of his voice. There are some issues in the higher registers, and that sing-song nature I noted in the first two CDs really comes when he’s well above the middle half of his range. I think he tries too hard to “sell” the songs vocally as roots music, and this results in the nasal sing song effect. He’s got the range, he’s got power, but he needs to work to get the nuances and tonality on the higher end. But those criticisms are small compared to what he’s delivered overall.

V3 kicks off with a secular tune that sounds like an old time Gospel hymn; it’s called “Bring Me Relief”. Todd “prays” to his physician for relief. He’s looking for peace and relief again in a couple of tracks in the bluesy “Find Peace”. One of my favorites is the instrumental “Running”. It sounds like music from India or the Middle East, with his slide doing some overtime work. “Quiet Country Living” is the other instrumental on V3, and Todd electrifies his slide along with providing nature sounds from his rural backyard. Quite cool. “I Could Be Wrong” is Lorenz’ version of a protest song focusing on conspiracies in our Nation and his spoken and sung parts remind us of the times 4 decades ago. The CD ends with a track called “Faith”, where Todd talks about things he has faith in, an apt ending for the volume.

V4 starts off on a different vein. He says he’ll "Take your woman and I'll make her mine; I'll loveher more in one night than you could in your whole life." Big Bad Man” is Todd’s version of badass blues. “Day and Night” is the only all electric, totally non-acoustic cut on all four discs and is an instrumental to boot. Lorenz wails and grinds away in slow slide guitar blues using his newest guitar and he uses it well. “The Woman I Love” describes a failed relationship, one many of us can identify with; his slide punctuates this one nicely. The other instrumental is “Truckin’”, not the Grateful Dead sort of trucking, but some down home acoustic blues mixed with a rocking beat.

It’s worth checking these CD’s out. You can sample them on the web. Todd is a very good musician who worked to find himself with all these songs last year and he has done a darn good job!

Crossroads Blues Society Music Reviews

There are fifty two weeks in a year and Todd Lorenz has established a goal to write a song in each of them for 2008, or as he has called it ‘twenty aught eight’. And so with 13 weeks in each quarter of the year, the year will result in giving him four CDs of 13 songs each. The first two were released to the Rockford area when Todd opened our Blues in the School Evening show at the Just Goods Listening Room on October 21st. I gladly agreed to review them.

Todd is a big man with a big voice and an even bigger heart. I’ve listened to and reviewed his earlier works and enjoyed them all. While his output is not even nearly 100% blues, it is American roots music and it is delivered from that huge heart of his. His compositions reflect his emotions and feelings, from pains and emotion of a lost love to the primal urges between a man and a woman.

Working to a calendar would stifle the creative juices of most songwriters, but Lorenz seems up to the challenge. While all of his songs certainly are not award winners and stylistically there is a little bit of repetitiveness in a few of the tunes that are a bit sing-song, in general his songs allow us to see through the window to a bygone era in music. We have some songs that could easily be work songs sung in the field and certainly all of the songs could be played on the front porch or before a warm fire with family and friends, allowing them to evoke the gamut of human feelings.

Vocally, Todd has a big instrument. He has power and enunciates the lyrics with clarity and a folky tonal quality. His finger and thumb work on the guitar strings are excellent as is his mastery of the slide. Whether bending a note, playing a blues riff or playing accompaniment to a folk song, his guitar play is both precise and colorful. The instrumentals on V1 called “Moonbeams” and “The Meandering Hound” and “Two-Step on V2 are great examples and really highlight his guitar playing.

Examples of the downside of his emotion include the song where he curses God when he sings of losing his wife (“Lost in Pain”, V1) and ponders a failed relationship as a loner musician who leaves his family for the road (“Never Got Along”, V2) . The upside of his feelings are expressed in tunes like “Life is Good” (V2).. He gets a little whimsical yet serious about a woman who is “six feet of trouble...in her high heels” in “Six Feet of Trouble” (V2) .

There is a lot of music here in these two CDs. While I found a few of them to have similar tempos and melodic lines, they are generally pretty darn good. If you like acoustic music that ranges from a little folk to a little country to a little blues in a traditional sort of way, these CDs will please you.

Wildy's World

Todd Lorenz is an acoustic based singer/songwriter whose musical ancestry lies in blues, rock, folk and bluegrass. The native of Southern California has made his was to Monroe, WI by way of Phoenix but has continued to make music and play out whenever possible. After releasing 5 solo albums and fronting several Southern California bands, Lorenz has set a new goal for himself in 2008. Between January 14, 2008 and January 12, 2009 he will post one new song each week to his website, http://www.toddlorenz.com/. These songs will be available for free download, and will later be available for sale on 4 CDs, each of which will represent one quarter of a year. The project is calledTwenty Aught Eight, and volumes 1 and 2 will be available shortly.

Twenty Aught Eight is an acoustic project made up primarily of Todd Lorenz and his guitar. One would expect that the pressure of releasing one song per week would create a barrier to strong, consistent songwriting, but the recorded evidence is quite to the contrary. Twenty Aught Eight V.1 and V.2 contain consistently strong songwriting and plus performances from Todd Lorenz.

Volume One opens with Three Chords And The Truth, with Lorenz sounding a little like Johnny Cash. This song is quite catchy and stays with you after the CD is over. Rock Me has a rockin' blues feel to it, again as if done by Johnny Cash. Trouble No More may well be the class of Volume 1, and could be a bit of a working class anthem. Moonbeams is a lovely country/folk instrumental ballad. Other highlights include The Meanderin Hound; Ain't No Greater Sorrow; Beauty Of Our Lives and Lost In Pain.

Volume Two includes the powerful anti-war song Bring 'Em Home. The message here is a hammer that comes across in sometimes awkward, sometimes oblique fashion. It's not as poetic as you might expect in a song, but lyrically is perhaps closer to actual thoughts than the finessed word could capture. Next up is perhaps the best song from the first two volumes of Twenty Aught EightWalk On By. Other highlights include Perfect Pleasures; Talkin' 'Bout It; Leave A Light On; Two Step and Soothe My Soul.

Todd Lorenz isn't the prettiest voice in music. His lower register sounds very much like Johnny Cash. His upper register is idiosyncratic and unique. Whatever flaws exist in his voice make him more interesting and listenable rather than detracting from the musical experience. The song quality is in general lower than you might expect from Lorenz just becauseof the volume, but he finds some real gems along the way. I liken this to being given a look inside an artist's sketchbook where the failures have been given equal opportunity alongside potential masterpieces. Lorenz bravely offers up a years worth of catalogue in what becomes a study in the process of composition and creation. Todd Lorenz is a unique and brave artist who warrants further attention. The Twenty Aught Eight project is highly recommended listening, and is as fine example of the raw creative process as we've had the pleasure to hear here at Wildy's World.

Ratings:

Volume 1: 3 Stars (Out of 5)
Volume 2: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

Crossroads Blues Society Music Reviews

In our last newsletter, we learned about Todd’s new blues CD My Blues. This time we are reviewing the CD that was released concurrently (his other new CD) called Live. Love. Learn. Sing.

Here is what Todd’s website has to say about this CD… “(The CD) is made up of 14 brand new songs that are all deeply personal with diverse subject matter than includes life, death, love, suicide, persistence, self awareness, and fate. The lyrics find a way to provoke thought in the listener, often managing to do so with a dose of humor. The music successfully blends elements of blues, folk, rock, bluegrass, and country, forming what might best be called Americana.”

Having now met Todd, I can honestly say that the CD is truly a labor of his love. Where as My Blues explores Todd’s acoustic blues side, Live. Love. Learn. Sing. is the fusion of blues, folk and other acoustic forms and as stated truly is a bit of Americana and it is Americana at the top of it’s form.

From the opening “The Ballad of Papa Chuck” to the closing “Lullaby,” we see the spectrum of Lorenz’ abilities. His folksy reflections on life, his bluesy tunes and lyrics, and the interjection of a little fun now and then makes for an great CD. Each original song is a reflection of it’s creator’s skills and they are all executed flawlessly. Todd is an extremely talented artist and songwriter.

Blues Bytes

Todd Lorenz is a California-born, Wisconsin-based guitarist/singer who takes an Americana approach to acoustic guitar, mixing elements of blues, folk, rock, bluegrass, and country into his playing and singing. Having released three previous CDs over the past eight years, he’s released two simultaneously in 2007, including My Blues (self-released), which consists of rerecorded versions of popular songs from his first three CDs.

Lorenz has a deft touch on guitar and a warm, rich voice. His highly original songs (20 on this CD) deal with familiar blues themes: pain, loss, love, etc., but with a modern, and sometimes personal touch. Highlights include “Tired of Your Pain,” “Life Ain’t Easy,” “To Your Grave,” “Sundance Groove,” “Good Old Days Again,” and “Kentucky Woman.”

Lorenz is comfortable playing and singing in blues, country, folk, or any of the Americana styles. Well produced by Lorenz and featuring a variety of styles and original tunes, My Blues is a fine CD that should please acoustic guitar fans.

Crossroads Blues Society Music Reviews

This disc is a selection of the best blues material from Todd’s first three discs. All of the cuts were written by Todd, who handles the vocals and lays down a steady stream of fine slide guitar on this solo effort. These versions were recently recorded to give listeners a more current, accurate indication of Todd’s talent and ability.

A solo recording doesn’t leave an artist anywhere to hide, especially when you are working with original material. Lorenz is able to make it work with ease. His slide guitar creates a solid rhythmic foundation throughout the disc, especially on tracks like “Hush Hush” where his rapid-fire licks add to the intensity of the performance. He has good range on the vocals and varies his approach enough to maintain interest.

The same could be said for Todd’s songwriting. He mixes standard blues licks with lyrics that often provide a humorous view of real life situations.  This quality is very evident on “Got Her Gone”, where the woman lays down a list of laws which Todd promptly uses as a roadmap to bring the relationship to an end. One has to wonder about his emotional state of being when he wrote “Even My Shoes Got the Blues”.

I listened to this recording on two long business road-trips. It held my attention both times. The best praise I can give My Blues is that, after hearing the disc, I want to see a live performance by Lorenz. 

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