Pat Guadagno isn’t going to sell millions of records. He probably won’t land a Rolling Stone cover article and he probably won’t sell out Radio City Music Hall. And all of that is a true disservice to one of the most talented singer-songwriters no one is talking about. The 50-something Jersey native has opened for the likes of Gary U.S. Bonds, Stevie Ray Vaughn and B. B. King. to name a few, and is a veteran of the Mid-Atlantic singer-songwriter circuit, performing regularly at Bob Fest, a Dylan tribute show. His high water mark to date was having the song “Don’t Let us Get Sick,” from his album Live at The City Lights Saloon, featured on the TV show Californication.
His music has been praised by the New York Times and Guitar World, but to this day Guadagno remains far from the spotlight. This is mostly because Guadagno, has and probably always will, made a career out of finding old, oft-ignored songs and making them his own. He lives by the motto, “there are a ton of great songs out there that need to be heard. My job is to play them.”
While it probably won’t receive the attention it deserves, Guadagno’s latest album New Jersey Material is a warm, welcoming and wholly engrossing disc with very few, if any flaws. The singer-songwriter is anchored by his hearty croon and his deft guitar work. New Jersey Material includes a cover of John Gorka’s jocular “People My Age,” Bruce Springsteen’s classic “Born to Run,” and Shel Silverstein’s “This Guitar is For Sale,” which features guitar work from multiple Grammy-winner Keb Mo’. Guadagno’s daughter Audra sings on “Here’s To You,” and Buck Dharma shares his talents on album opener, “Pray That We Will,” arguably the album’s strongest song and one of the year’s most under-appreciated compositions.
New Jersey Material works because there’s some authentic, homespun and timeless about each song. That is to say, these songs are sincere, without pretense and incredibly inviting. Guadagno’s voice is incredibly soulful and can at times be mesmerizing, all-encompassing and unshakeable. While all of the aforementioned covers are indeed standout songs, so too is the Irish sea chanty “Ships,” and the gorgeous and intricate narrative “The Dutchman.” Though there only three songs about defeated relationships, each of them are impacting, indelible and hard to turn away from. “You Never Even Tried,” takes an honest and direct look at hindsight, while “Nobody But Myself to Blame,” channels self-defeat. But of the three, few are better than the rollicking “I Can’t Take Me Anywhere.” How or why this song has not been covered by a bigger name and not charted on radio remains to be seen. New Jersey Material closes with the near-perfect “Sanctuary,” a perfect summation of Guadagno’s music and this album: soulful, deeply resonant and undeniably endearing.
He may be in his 50s, he may not be well-known and he may only tour his beloved Garden State, but talent like this deserves a wider audience. New Jersey Material is proof of that.