Sammy Tenuta came out of a very different scene than the one he's in now; he was the singer and leader in loud, driving rock bands that headlined most of the big venues in the Chicago club scene up through the late nineties. He's moved on, in reality, he's moved back to where most of that music started anyway; his new EP "Stay a Little Longer" is purely acoustic -- one guitar played live, one vocal, all about the songs, just the way that really good solo acoustic and solo vocal records should be. Well, all about the songs and how you play them.
Sammy Tenuta's just released Acoustic Sleepover EP is a four-song collection that showcases two very different sides of the singer-songwriter. Two of the tracks, "Places" and "Sweet Goodbyes", are melodically beautiful pop songs that tell personal stories, but stories that almost everyone has lived. Compelling and emotional, both tracks have the haunting melodic touch that is a hallmark of many of Tenuta's songs. The other two tracks on the EP ("Liberty Falls" and "Til Then I Wait") show the harder side of Tenuta's writing, even in this acoustic setting. Acoustic Sleepover was recorded by Art Rento, who also produced the four tracks with Tenuta, and the two manage to find a careful balance between the simplicity of the acoustic format and the appeal of tastefully added arrangment.
The release party for the project is Saturday, June 18 at The Playroom, (773 625-5300), and aotpr.com favorite Allison Wonderlin will open the show (starting around 8PM). She'll be playing a number of her originals, like "I Believe" and "Hopes Will Fall", and it just might be the last chance to catch her live before she leaves for Nashville.
There's not too much that's more real than walking onto a small stage in a club you've never been in before to play your guitar and sing your songs. Not a lot of room for posing, nowhere really to hide, an acoustic set is usually just you and a cafe full of strangers, and hopefully a few friends who came too. It's a hopeful, challenging, intimidating chance to do what you love and find out if anybody else loves it, likes it, or even watches it when there's a TV over the bar they can watch instead. Last week I saw Sammy Tenuta and Allison Wonderlin trade sets in a friendly place called Club Amore (how can you not love that name) and take turns making everybody in the place stop everything else and wait for every word, every note.
You wouldn't usually get the chance to see such a study in complementary differences. Sammy comes out of successful Chicago rock bands that headlined the biggest rooms in Chicago in the nineties, returning after ten, fifteen years with his originals and favorite covers, doing them just to do them, playing and singing just because he's so good at it. He doesn't seem to care that he can command the undivided attention of everybody in the place, that he can move easily from tracks he wrote to songs everybody knows without leaving anybody behind. He just starts at the beginning and leads everybody along, from song to song, with nothing but his voice, his guitar, and a musician's attention to all of the details that make non-musicians keep listening.
Allison is from the opposite end of the world. She's just starting out, except like those few artists who are completely immersed in really unusual talent, she seems like she's done it a thousand times. She doesn't seem to care that she can inspire surprised admiration from everybody in the place, that she can move effortlessly from songs she's written to tracks that everybody knows and get everybody to go with her, she just walks up on to a small stage and takes the whole room wherever she wants to go, until it's Sammy's turn again.