Like Neil Young, Michael Ubaldini is that rare singer-songwriter willing to explore a range of acoustic and electric styles at a prolific pace that defies the modern tactic of waiting years between new studio releases.
Since 1999, the Fountain Valley resident has released four full-length albums of new material. In addition, there was an outstanding 2006 collection (“Empty Bottles & Broken Guitar Strings”) that includes remastered early material, unreleased tracks and three new songs recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis. And earlier this year England-based Raucous Records released an expanded version of “The Mystery Train Sessions,” the essential Lee Rocker-produced 1994 debut that featured Ubaldini joined by guest artists such as guitarist Brian Setzer.
Now the Fountain Valley singer-songwriter is back with “Storybook,” a 12-song collection that bridges the gap between his acoustic-styled works (“Acoustic Rumble,” “American Blood”) and full band outings (“Avenue of 10 Cent Hearts”).
“I have in my head, to do albums like they used to do it – like the Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR put out two albums a year and put out a single in-between,” Ubaldini said.
“Now, they milk everything and it kills the music.”
Ubaldini’s “Storybook” is not necessarily crafted for the iTUNES generation or for those who want to download the flavor-of-the-month artist.
“The weird thing is the record is something you have to listen to start to finish; it’s kind of like the human condition of life. There is a lot of (imagery about) graveyards, tombstones, riverboats; ‘Apricot Wind’ is a story of the Civil War.”
“Storybook” explores themes such as life, death and war set against a backdrop of timeless American landscapes, with the songs presented courtesy of sparse arrangements featuring Ubaldini’s voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica, as well as Kirk Brown on pedal steel and fiddle and Jerry Adamos on piano and organ.
Ubaldini’s seemingly-endless travels provide him with an inexhaustible resource of experiences to put into songs.
“I like the way they (the songs) all flow together,” said Ubaldini. “There has always been a tradition in American music, a mystery to it all. The mystery coming out of the soil. I feel like I’m getting these songs; whatever I’m tapped into, it’s that American soil.”
The disc’s gentle landscape is positioned somewhere between the beauty of Neil Young’s “Prairie Wind” and John Mellencamp’s solemn “Human Wheels.”
Songs such as the alt country-styled “Side By Side,” blues-tinged “Honeysuckle Dew” and folk ballad “Sweet Autumn Rain” are among the many highlights on “Storybook.”
“I sang the songs live along with my acoustic guitar,” Ubaldini said of the “Storybook” sessions completed at Adamos Recording in January 2007. “There is not an effect on the vocals, everything is natural. I wanted it to be a real sound. Everything is so sterile these days. I think the public wants good honest records.
“It’s a quiet record, but there is still an edge to it.”
Michael Ubaldini will perform at Swallows Inn, 31786 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 and at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.
Admission is free.