Live From Long Island City

D.B. Rielly

Shut Up & Play!, 2017

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


D.B. Rielly’s new album arrives in a stiff cardboard sleeve the shape and size of a postcard, inscribed by hand on the back “Wish you were here! D.B. Rielly.” There’s an easy familiarity, a winning jocularity to the gesture that says a lot about Rielly’s personality and approach to what he describes as “American roots music.”

Rielly’s previous album Cross My Heart + Hope To Die (2013) is full of wonderful songs sung in his distinctly knowing drawl, an easygoing persona that encourages you to let your guard down right up until the moment the needle goes in. For points of comparison, Rielly suggests John Prine (sure), Todd Snider (definitely), and Kris Kristofferson (I suppose). From my particular perspective, I also hear a dash of Randy Newman and a pinch of Jimmy Buffett, that sort of slightly off-kilter, laid-back but incisive persona (trivial aside: while researching the above I learned that Snider was initially signed by Buffett’s Margaritaville Records, so there you go; birds of a feather).

The New York-based Rielly’s new album Live From Long Island City runs a brief 25 minutes and 10 tracks, never coming close to wearing out its welcome. And in fact three of the tracks are actually stories leading into songs, leaving just seven actual songs. Still, Live lets you experience at least a healthy slice of an evening with just D.B., his guitar and his voice.

From the opening notes, Rielly displays an innately appealing Everyman charm, as non-threatening as can be, and yet his songs are full of sweetness and sadness, wisdom and snark, a sharply perceptive chronicler of the teeming humanity around him who positions himself as the outsider while offering insights about those he observes. There may be only seven songs here, but the brief set is well-ordered, with strong material throughout paced by a punchy opener and two absolute gems at the end.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Opener “Nothing Like You” gets the crowd laughing with one clever punchline after another as Rielly rattles off a series of weird, crazy, ironic things (“I seen a one-legged hooker sellin’ left shows out behind the Super 8 / I seen protestors screamin’ at each other holdin’ signs sayin’ ‘Stop the Hate’”) leading into this repeated chorus: “I thought I’d seen everything there was to see / But I ain’t seen nothing like you.” Some of the lines are brilliant in pointing out the absurdity of things we’ve all observed and at times even taken for granted—and he’s a hell of a good guitar player, too.

“Look At You” is sweet, lovely tune featuring a bright melody and sharp picked notes, reveling in the simple joy of observing a loved one moving through a room, bringing light to everyone around them. “Look at me / The lucky one to behold / The way you float / So fragile and bold” he sings. The ambiguity at the heart of the song—he never makes it clear if he’s talking about a child or a friend or a lover—is an essential part of its charm; you just know it’s about someone he loves and admires, and that’s enough.

The humorous edge returns in “Let It Ring,” an ode to a distracted lover: “I swear you’re always on that phone / It’s glued to your ear / You wouldn’t miss the call / If you was on fire.” The subject matter could easily feel trite, but it doesn’t, simply because Rielly exercises his craft so well on it: the rhymes are superb, the cadence propels both singer and audience along, and the arrangement is nimble and melodic.

Rielly switches over to banjo for the earnest “I Believe, Angeline” before switching back to acoustic for the equally plaintive “Don’t Give Up On Me.” Like any good prizefighter, though, Rielly knows when to dodge, when to jab, and when to throw a roundhouse punch. “Lawrence Welk” is a wry spoken intro to the jab: the acerbic, hilarious “Prenup,” propelled by one brilliant laugh-out-loud rhyme after another. “I share with you all my hopes and fears / I hope our love will last for years / I want you to join me on life’s journey / And on the advice of my attorney / Here’s a prenup, prenup, oh prenup / ’Cause I trust you with my heart, but not my stuff.” As each verse after the first opens you can hear the crowd gearing up for the next punchline to drop, and then exploding in laughter when it comes.

The roundhouse punch to the sternum comes after Rielly introduces the final track, the beautiful, sad, spectacular “I’ll Remind You Every Day.” Without giving away too much, it’s about as poignant a song as you can ever imagine about what true love and genuine devotion actually looks like. It’s not all wine and roses, but it’s real. The song itself has a gentle, lyrical feel to it, a gorgeous little melody pushing forward all the way to the end of the song and the damp-eyed applause that follows.

In sum, Live From Long Island City is a warm and concise showcase for the tremendously gifted Rielly’s songwriting craft, a brief but worthwhile glimpse inside his unique perspective on the world. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cheer for more.

Rating: A-

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© 2017 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Shut Up & Play!, and is used for informational purposes only.