Certain aspects of music have stayed generally constant throughout existence. For the most part, people agree that a catchy chorus that divides a song into separate sections is a desirable characteristic in a song. Most would say that shorter is better, and an untrained voice is not an asset. Adam Arcuragi seems to have disregarded most of these rules and created songs people aren’t used to hearing on his self-titled debut album. The album is an adventurous one, and it seems as if the risk was worth taking. Arcuragi’s instrumentation is steady and rhythmic, but his furious energy and his raw voice add grit to his sometimes hypnotic ballads. Arcuragi’s songs also do not clearly distinguish between what is chorus and what is regular verse. Instead, Arcuragi uses different inflections upon his voice and his instrument to highlight certain areas of a song. This provides a great vehicle for Arcuragi’s sophisticated lyrics and unceasing rhythm of words, as the song becomes glimpses into a photo album of lyrical imagery.
Adam Arcuragi is a literary renaissance man, writing poems and plays, and has been writing songs for about five years. He has recorded in a large number of locales, including an antique house, a porch, and eventually a studio. His wandering ways of performing and recording give him the image of a nomadic troubadour, singing of his travels across this country, with people stepping in when needed to fill in whatever holes come along on the trip. He did not shy away from bringing along the help of many people, including Mike Kennedy (Mazarin/Lefty’s Deceiver), Charlie Hall, and Rick Flom. While Arcuragi holds the forefront in all of the songs with vocals and guitar, all of his help is in the background, adding a little spice and ambiance to the songs that play off very well.
The album’s first track is a paradigm for the rest of the album, as all of the elements that make Arcuragi’s songs his are present. The rhythm of the entire song is set at the start with Michael Spinka’s vibraphone before Arcuragi chimes in on guitar. From here, Arcuragi does a wonderful job of molding his lyrics to stay within this rhythm. The lyrics burst out of the steady rhythm of the song by their plain inventiveness combined with marvelous imagery of “these precious tired fingers will play upon the sinews of my legs.” “1981” features a strong strumming of Arcuragi’s guitar and a somewhat coarser voice than usual, creating a sound similar to The Mountain Goats. The album tones down in the middle creating mellow tunes like “Little Yellow Boat” and “Part of the Sky.” The last three tracks are songs that break the mold of the rest of the album with the somber “The Dog is Dead, Amen,” the staccato feel of “Philadelphia (The Screen)” and the comparably celebratory “The Christmas Song.”
Challenging songwriters are a blessing to the industry, making sure that popular musicians are always on their toes, never letting new sounds stagnate. Arcuragi’s unique method and performance of relatively simple songs will surely turn a few heads and get the rest up to speed.