He’s shared bills with Josh Ritter, Justin Townes Earle, Rhett Miller, and Joe Pug. His songs are heartsore yet sure-footed, grounded in classic folk but modern in their buoyant rhythms and electric streaks. His name is Anthony D’Amato and his latest album, The Shipwreck From the Shore (New West), feels tailor-made for the season as we wend our way toward an idea of home.
“Good and Ready” gives off a crackling warmth as D’Amato sings sweetly on variations of doom, describing all the ways in which perishing would be preferable to waking up if it ain’t next to you. The album is fleshed out by the contributions of Bon Iver’s Matt McCaughan on drums, Megafaun’s Brad Cook on bass, and Sam Kassirer, of Josh Ritter’s band, on keyboard. (Kassirer also produced the album.)
Like many, D’Amato started making music in a solo, DIY fashion (listen to one of his beautifully subdued early songs, “Father’s Son,” here). But unlike most, D’Amato found a mentor among the Princeton faculty. The English major completed an independent study project under the guidance of Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon and music professor Paul Lanky. This careful attention to the craft of lyric-writing sets D’Amato’s music apart in an industry awash with “indie folk” — the songs’ imagery and structure show a keen-eyed wisdom that belies his years.
On an early winter night, D’Amato’s solo opening set at DC’s U Street Music Hall juxtaposed irreverent banter (“Pandora has a system for classifying songs, and they rated mine a 2 out of 5 on the lust scale. I’d like to think I merit at least a 3–“) with harmonica-and-guitar songs, alternately wistful and jaunty. In introducing “If It Don’t Work Out,” he remarked that in a place like New York, high rents mean that when the end of a relationship doesn’t coincide with the end of a lease, you still have to find a way to sort it out. His remark earned more than a few understanding laughs from the crowd.
A meditative rendition of “Ludlow” has haunted me this December as I change jobs, say goodbye to friends, and cross oceans to see family. The video feels both alien and organic — a paradox that seems to be at the heart of it all.
First the whisper then the shout, first the temple then the doubt — the song seems to promise an order in the chaos, even if the logic is not discernible to my limited gaze and fallible reasoning.
Been a stranger in my own damn home… how’s that for a Christmas truth?
The process of moving and packing is a ready metaphor for life. What we pack, we must carry. Pare down. Add curiosity and compassion. Leave behind bitterness and resentment.
Carry music. Let it move you. Especially music like Anthony D’Amato’s.
Sign up for his mailing list here so you can catch him live in 2016. He’s recording a new album with Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Cursive). As with The Shipwreck From the Shore (CD & vinyl, digital), I suspect it will find its way onto our “most listened to” lists.
P.S. If you forgot anyone on your holiday shopping list, make it up to them with one of these wolf-playing-harmonica shirts.