By: William Phoenix
Warren John Wolfe is a singer-songwriter and guitarist that you might not yet know, but you should. Originally from the Chicago area, the now Oregon-based artist has been a bit of a traveling troubadour, performing live around the country and fleshing out his own multi-genre-influenced brand of Americana-infused music. His current disc, Unconditional Love, is a real life-inspired collection of ii songs. Backing him on this second serving of his signature sound are Johnny Trujillo (bass), Dennis Dragon drums and percussion), Don Harriss (keys), Alex Goldman (fiddle), Vince Herman (mandolin), Duke Davis (tenor sax), Aaron Price (pedal steel guitar), Skip Edwards (Hammond B3 organ), Mikey Stevens (trumpet and flugelhorn), Jeff Pevar (dobro, ukulele, mandolin and guitar), Jack Hopfinger (bass and guitar), and Blair Buchan and Windsong Martin on backing vocals).
The album opens with the titular track “Unconditional Love.” The reggae-tinged tune may not cover any new ground in terms of subject but he owns it and makes it work. This is, perhaps, due in part to the honest inspiration behind the song.
In a recent interview Wolfe said:
“I wrote that song while I was mucking out in the corral. I was thinking about an article I’d read that morning in the NY Times about Dick Cheney, who was going on and on about how justified and wonderful the War in Iraq was. I was appalled.” he added that “it might seem silly [but] my immediate reaction to all of that was not to hit it with more hate but to blow it out of the water with the force of Universal Love. The first line and chorus just rolled out of me. . . I knew it would be the title track.”
“DaffodiI” opens and before you know it, the flow of the album truly begins. It’s a song about both lost love and new beginnings. Wolfe confirms that the song is “about getting over a broken heart, starting over, and finding home.”
There’s a nice duet in the memorable “When We Touch.” Interestingly, the song has a “Paul McCartney-’Yesterday’-like origin. Wolfe elaborates: “I heard this song in a dream, woke myself up, and ran downstairs to the piano to get it somewhat written down before it disappeared.”
“A Love That Grows Slow” has a rock-influenced sound and a reflective, personal tone to it. Wolfe, in fact, confirmed this in an interview saying it was one of those songs that involves “looking into the mirror.” It’s a song about failed relationships.
“Not That Kind of Man” seems almost like a prerequisite piece, Still, he presents and delivers it in a way that makes it refreshing. It sounds like the kind of song that works well live and Wolfe admits that it is indeed “an older song” that works “in clubs” or “in a bar.” It’s followed by “That’s Why I Ride.”
“That’s Why I Ride” sounds perfect for use in film or television. The song benefits again from his own personal experiences on the road. “Come Like Rain” is a surprising change with its change of pace and genre. It’s a noteworthy, jazzy-fun track.
The next number is “Driftin’ in Colors”. Here we begin a musical return back to a country like cut. It’s a “horse”-voiced, sincere selection he wrote for his lonely mare written while downing a beer and singing to her in the barn.
“Searching For Your Eyes” is yet another jazzy surprise that seems to be focused on love and romance. He admits that one reason why he wrote the song was because he is “too damn romantic for [his] own good” and because he believes “that love conquers all.” Wolfe still believes in “true love” despite the Joni Mitchell-like failed relationship songs.
“Little Bird” is another nice musical hybrid. It is perhaps slightly overshadowed by the closing cut “One More Time.” One of his personal faves, because it concerns a real-life step-up story. It provides the disc with an upbeat endnote that also allows everyone in the studio to cut loose and enjoy themselves.
Overall, it’s an honest and at times pleasantly surprising honest and audio offering. Wolfe walks the line between music genres, spinning stories of personal experience yet being true to the ideals of his iconic influences. So check out Warren John Wolfe’s Unconditional Love. Once you hear it, you might want to listen more than “One More Time.”