Songwriter Lauren Agnelli channels the muse as if through “cosmic radio,” as she puts it, “unraveling a mystery.”
Echoes of Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Joni, Randy Newman and others reverberate in her head, helping her reproduce that Americana style with which her work is indelibly stamped. Themes of gratitude and hope also resonate.
Alone, or with guidance and assistance from singer/songwriter Dave “Rave” DesRoches, who’s got his own entry in Wikipedia, Agnelli’s got it down.
How do I know? Check out this video of the title song, The New Leisure Class, by her five-member group, Amalgamated Muck. The new CD also features Dave Rave, Phil Rosenthal on banjo and Dana Takaki on violin.
Writing catchy material is not easy, but give a listen to her other songs, like “Plenty” and “Remember Me,” and you may be pleasantly cajoled into thinking otherwise.
The upbeat, mandolin-laced, “Shady Grove” shows off the group’s ability to resurrect a traditional folk classic and turn it into their own intimate, rousing rendition.
In fact, this songwriter says, writing songs is sometimes inconvenient. But for Agnelli and Amalgamated Muck, the striking thing is how refreshing the easily digestible melodies are; how plain (in the best sense) and authentic the lyrics; and how articulate, subtle and precise the instrumentation.
The origins of “The New Leisure Class,” Agnelli said, came from personal experience, and a sense of American musical history.
“I started with a lyric based on how I felt being a partly unemployed/self employed wreck,” she recalled recently. “I did it tongue-in-cheek a la that great song, ‘Salt of the Earth,’ by the Rolling Stones. I also thought of my Washington Squares days, and channeled Woody Guthrie and Joe Hill, who wrote great early broadsides about the plight of the working(wo)man. . . (D)uring one of our songwriting sessions, I asked Dave what he’d do with the half-written song I started and he made a few great suggestions.”
The end result is an anthem to the unemployed.
“It isn’t real to me, it’s like a DVD,” she croons good-naturedly.
Through the years, Agnelli has recorded a jazzy torch-song album, “Love Always Follows Me,” played in a popular folk/rock ’80’s group, and made a record with Nuclear Polka masters, Brave Combo. Before that, she performed with the new wave pop rock group Nervus Rex. Roots music is not her only style, but it is the one with which she says she is most comfortable.
So, on what passes for a small stage on the deck, Agnelli and Friends join me Friday, July 27, from 5-7 p.m. at Captain’s Pizza, 8 Bank St., New London, Conn. Her friends include Takaki and husband/drummer Matt Male.
What you will hear are foot-tapping tunes, a heart-felt voice and and instrumentals that will make you rock and sway.
Come, listen, stay.