Saturday, September 10, 2016

Teach and Learn: What Can We Learn?

Just like his opener about New York City with its “hustle, bustle and pride,” Cole Petrone’s original material on his “Songteller” album delivers plenty of lively snap and satisfaction. His mature, multi-layered pop sound is both moody and moving. With a little luck, Cole Petrone might just experience the same kind of commercial breakthrough that James Taylor experienced in the early 1970s when he developed a musical relationship between his own private expressions and the larger concerns of his audiences. Based in British Columbia, Petrone considers himself an amalgamation of both songwriter and storyteller. Thus, his album’s title, “Songteller,” describes the musician’s approach as weaving a part of his life’s tapestry, using words and melody to chronicle significant moments from personal experience.

“What Can We Learn?” doesn’t poke fun at the educated as much as it has a strong, broader statement about being kind, courteous, considerate, respectful and most-importantly open-minded to others’ opinions. The song’s bottomline is “What makes you think you’re so smart?” Another question crops up in the melodic “Little Did I Know,” when Petrone asks, “Why deny this love that burns so bright?” as he sings with fond remembrance of that special someone who took his breath away.

The upbeat “What Can We Learn?” also include a small, understated horn section of trumpet, sax and trombone. Born in Puerto Rico to an American father and Nicaraguan mother, Petrone channels the same kind of sentiment as The Beatles’ “money can’t buy you love.” He says he wrote “What Can We Learn?” while seeking to understand his peers while working in Russia.

His album has other highlights. Based on inspiration from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream” recounts the orator’s famous words as Petrone calls for freedom to ring and the voice of reason to belong to all the ages. Perhaps inspired more by the songwriting of James Taylor, a song like “See You Again” is a reflective outlook on life and love that was written as a tribute to his father. Many of his songs also document the questions that Petrone contemplates during life’s journey. “Angels Above Berlin” leaves us wondering why it took so long? Petrone was living in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell.

His is an interesting approach to songtelling that keeps us asking hard-hitting, provocative questions. Inspired by a six-year-old boy at the Ronald McDonald House, “Only Because” is a humorous take on the inquisitive mind needing real answers about who, when, where and why. With a full palette of proficient instrumental accompaniment including guitars, piano, organ, bass, drums and more, Cole Petrone has created a praiseworthy project.

Closing the album, “Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve” is a motivating reminder that we’d better get busy, get productive, and enjoy life while we still can. The question to reflect upon is “When they find their youth is gone, what will they do with all that sun?”  Cole Petrone is a songcrafter that doesn’t simply rely on old standard clichés or the lowest common denominator. He has enough years under his belt to confidently present his world-weary wisdom. It’s sometimes whimsical, a little quirky, and certainly quite fun. Check out his “Songteller” album on his website or at CDBaby.

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