Lorne Entress is an instrumentalist, producer and mix engineer who lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut. He has quite the professional credit sheet, having produced or engineered for Lori McKenna, Big Al Anderson (NRBQ) and Tom Jones, as well as drumming for Junior Wells, Charlie Musselwhite, Susan Tedeschi and Ronnie Earl. Listing more of his credits would take up this whole review, so let’s move onto Red Letter Day, a solo album Entress began in 2019 because he felt “…a bit stifled in having to always adhere to someone else’s vision. I was eager to make my own statement unfettered by genre or fanbase concerns.”
Entress notes that much of his career has been in American roots music, but that he grew up absorbed in the British rock of Badfinger, Thunderclap Newman, Paul McCartney and later XTC. “There's something about those strong melodies and chorus harmonies that makes for repeated listening, so when those British influences pushed to the surface I didn't push back.” Lyrically the songs are inspired by his music and an open mind; Entress wanted to make sure his lyrics “sang well,” and as a producer he knew how to pull out clunky lines that might distract the listener. Entress tracked and mixed most of the album at his own Harmony St. production studio in Tolland, Connecticut with additional work at Sounds Interesting and The Garret. Completed tracks were mastered by Scott Craggs at Old Colony Mastering. Entress enjoys collecting and using old dynamic microphones and also makes good use of analog compressors, plus vintage EQ’s and reverb units.
Right up front, I have to say that this is one of those nearly perfect song-based albums that would have spawned numerous hits in a previous era. To hear songs of this quality and in these “older” styles is a rare treat, and Entress’ long resume turns out to be well deserved. The sound quality throughout is flawless.
“New Things” starts us off with strutting, swampy pop rock that features acoustic guitar, a clean and crunchy rhythm guitar and ace vocals by Entress. He has a high, smooth voice that could sometimes pass for female, and that’s great for music. I also love the Beach Boys ’70s era fuzz bass by Jesse Williams, which I first mistook for a Moog. Sam Kassirer guests on Hammond organ. “Surrender Days” features a thumpy beat and heavy fuzz guitar with carefully layered Badfinger descending harmonies. This is constructed like an early ’70s hit, and though dated (this time with a Moog for sure!) it’s solid songwriting with a highly commercial sound.
“Back To Boston” is classic country pop like Jimmy Webb or even Freedy Johnston, a favorite of mine who actually shows up for guest vocals along with Lori McKenna, Kevin Barry, Christine Ohlman, Mark Erelli and Tracy Grammar. I love the lyrical device of naming different locations (Boston, Costa Mesa, etc.) with each chorus. A Dylanesque organ and pedal steel bring the country feel all the way home. “January Wind” is even more heavily influenced by Badfinger with a “la la la” chorus that reminded me of The Banana Splits’ “Tra La La” song (and I say that as a fan) making this a favorite for me.
“The Rowboat” is an achingly beautiful folk rock lament, thanks mostly to the lush melding of Entress' voice with guest Hayley Reardon, who brings a wholly appropriate Stevie Nicks quality. “Red Letter Day” is similar and every bit as good with the unexpected addition of Duke Levine’s banjo and Kevin Barry’s steel guitar. The choruses shine with a diamond-like luminescence, as they do in most of these songs. “Just Like a C Major 7” is another good song, though just a bit self-referential for my taste. “Hobo Nickel” is a folk-country tale with a spooky edge, which Entress sings in a lower register that suits him quite well. Kevin Barry this time plays lap steel bathed in reverb, and his contributions are worth their weight in gold. “Shawsheen Ride” ends the collection with its first and only instrumental, and it’s just as gentle and haunting as you’d by now expect. Entress plays deep drums and orchestra bells, while the essential Kevin Barry provides lovely dobro and acoustic guitar.
An album like this is impervious to any review, since it is by any standard a near perfect example of musical craftsmanship; all I can do is highly recommend these amazing songs and performances.
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