Thursday, May 01, 2008

Michael Ubaldini has issued another winning album, the aptly-titled "Street Singin' Troubadour."
It's almost impossible for many modern rock artists to comprehend issuing a new full-length album every year. For example, Coldplay's forthcoming "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends" will be the band's first studio effort since 2005. R.E.M.'s recently-issued "Accelerate" marked the group's first new studio album in four years and fans of Radiohead had to wait just as long between the release of 2003's "Hail to the Thief" and 2007's "In Rainbows."

Fountain Valley singer-songwriter Michael Ubaldini has been on an unbelievable tear since the beginning of the decade, issuing one memorable album after another at a breathtaking pace – especially impressive since he books his own shows, including out-of-state and European tours. In addition to the release of 2007's "Storybook," 2006's "Empty Bottles & Broken Guitar Strings" and 2004's "Avenue of Ten Cent Hearts," he even had time to pen a book filled with his original writings, "Lost American Nights: Lyrics & Poems," published by Moon Tide Press in 2006.

His latest disc, "Street Singin' Troubadour," boasts 13 songs written at the end of 2007 and beginning of this year. Fans can get the new disc when Ubaldini appears at two album release parties, including an afternoon show at Pepperland Music in Orange on May 10 and an evening performance at Alta Coffee in Newport Beach on May 15. Admission to both shows is free.

"The album was written at the end of '07 and beginning of '08. Songs like 'Sound of the Age,' 'World Peace in 10 Easy Lessons' and "Sidewalk Musicians' all were written in '08," Ubaldini explained when we got together for a recent interview chat.

"I've been doing lots of acoustic gigs. This ('Street Singin' Troubadour') is different from 'Acoustic Rumble' (his 1999 release). I wanted to have lyrics that were not about finger pointing. I don't care about blue/red divisions," Ubaldini said. "I write from the point of being an outsider from all these trendy groups."

Indeed, his album takes a thoughtful approach to weighty subjects such as war, terrorism, faith and our own mortality.
"I just write what I feel like writing," he said.

With the exception of collections such as Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad," there have not been many folk albums like "Street Singin' Troubadour" issued in years. Building his lyrical tales with nothing but an acoustic guitar, harmonica and his own emotive baritone, Ubaldini wanted to tap into the forces that make folk so timeless.
"It's straight," he said of his album. "Like early records from Bob Dylan and the late (Rick Rubin-produced) ones from Johnny Cash. It's my answer to all the overproduced, over-compressed records."
"The record is a natural extension of all my records. A lot of artists tap into that."

Material ranges from a confessional tale "Dem' Ol' Pneumonia Blues" he wrote when returning from the hospital to a moving tale of a Catholic priest who takes his own life when he is falsely accused of a crime in the artfully delivered "Ballad of Father Patrick." And "Sad Empty Streets of Sunday" is one of the most beautiful and sparse songs Ubaldini has ever recorded.

"It's an intimate record set in an intimate setting," Ubaldini said.
Although there is a thriving regional and national Americana and roots scene now, it's easy to forget that Ubaldini has been at the forefront of the movement since his Lee Rocker-produced "Mystery Train" was released in 1994. The Fallen Stars, Mike Ness, Limbeck and Dusty Rhodes and the River Band are among the crop of locals whose current work ultimately celebrates the territory Ubaldini has been exploring since the early 1990s.
Ubaldini used a mere 18 hours of studio time to record "Street Singin' Troubadour" and is proud of the authentic sound and emotion that comes across the album. Like on his previous discs, Ubaldini hopes the songs will stand the test of time.
"I'm just playing guitar and signing, but I don't think that's retro."

Ubaldini will perform at Pepperland Music, 850 N. Tustin Ave., Orange, at 2 p.m. on May 10. He will also be at Alta Coffee, 506 31st St., Newport Beach, from 8-10 p.m. on May 15.

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