CD Review: Spokesman by Jonah Bruno

by C.B. Smith

A scion of an upstate New York musical family with a deep love for bluegrass, banjo phenom Jonah Bruno just released a strong collection of original songs called Spokesman.  The title stumped me until I did a little research and learned that Jonah’s day job is spokesman for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

Makes sense: what better way to deal with a presumably heavy workload and highly stressful job than making music? And if the result is an album of bluegrass songs that tell true-crime stories, tales about bad cops working mean streets, and laments about the hard realities of urban living…well, that’d make for a good listen, now wouldn’t it?

That’s exactly what happens here.
The record kicks off hard with the murderous “23 Years,” a nasty tale well told and superbly played, with Bruno’s blazing banjo sharing the spotlight with standout flat picking from guitar hotshot Jordan Shapiro.

Songs like “Poverty Line” and “The Money Went” work the same side of the street.  But lest you think Bruno’s take on life is relentlessly grim, stayed tuned for “No Comment,” the hilarious “High and Lonesome” (“I get high when I’m lonesome to try to get you off my mind”) and the equally clever “Happy Hour.”

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“High and Lonesome”

Jonah Bruno is a songwriting talent to contend with, with a knack for strong melodies, something to say and the chops to get his message across.  And he’s surrounded himself with a fine army of urban bluegrass guerillas.  Let’s hope he keeps up the good work, and brings his crew north for a show sometime soon.

NOTE: This CD may be purchased at CD Baby and through iTunes

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