Huntley luthier and singer/songwriter Wes Urbaniak has released his ninth and concluding concept album about his life’s journey thus far. He plays many of his handmade instruments here: guitar, bass, cello, octave mandolin, ukulele, and eight-string ukulele. He sings harmony, too.
Maddie Alpert assists with background vocals and some lead. Her gauzy soprano complements Urbaniak’s deep baritone, which is akin to that of Cat Stevens/Yusuf, only more robust.
The long-time guitar player uses the same focused discipline it takes to create an instrument to craft his songs, immersing himself in complex arrangements that contain fragments of harmony darting in and out, pauses in tempo, and multi-layered singing by both vocalists. Terrific hooks and riffs abound.
There are thematic references to fire, boats, water, wrongdoing, and the journey, the “Long Walk” he calls it, that ages and rusts our bones as we continue our odyssey on Earth. Urbaniak recently lived through a devastating divorce, and sings of finally shedding an ugliness in himself that nearly drove him mad.
The Adelphos is a metaphorical boat upon the sea of life, and Urbaniak the sailor, who toils to row himself out of his psychic morass, dumping his mental baggage along the watery journey.
Will he burn for his transgressions? “Let me burn,” he sings in the pretty opener, “Greed in My Fire.” And, “I knew my mind was poisoned and to delirium I was bound.” It’s got a fluid folk-guitar accompaniment of hammer-ons and high fretwork. Cool!
In the bluegrassy, catchy “Let Me Go Now” about moving on with life, Urbaniak declares, “As I rowed … my wickedness did fail as I began to see I am better.”
And in the country-inflected ballad, “It Goes So Fast,” Urbaniak finally has hope: “I learned that I could love again and love the life I live.” Alpert sings harmony on the repeating nursery-rhyme hook, “Oh it goes, it goes … so fast.”
Urbaniak is a gifted musician, and provides much for the listener to parse. I’m guessing this album has been cathartic for him. We all toil in our own boats, after all.
– Mariss McTucker