Providence is the brand new release from one of Nashville’s most seasoned veterans, Phil Madeira. It’s jazzy, it’s bluesy and as you’d expect from a man with Madeira’s credentials, the musicianship on the record, is second to none. In April 2018, it entered Billboard’s Traditional Jazz Chart at number 12 and it has only continued to gather critical praise ever since.
Seven of the album’s ten songs were written in just two months in mid to late 2016, while other titles like ‘Barrington’ began life in the early 1980s. Similarly, work on ‘Wicked Job’ first began in the mid-1990s, while, ‘Dearest Companion’, the most recent of the compositions, was only penned during the recording process of the album itself.
Two of the most striking things about the songs on the album are that they are i) directly biographical and ii) geographically, very site-specific; focussing mainly on Madeira’s home State of Rhode Island.
In album opener ‘Wicked Job’, Madeira reminisces about his experiences working in a “locally famous and now defunct” Rhode Island discount store called Ann & Hope; ‘Rhode Island Yankee On Jefferson Davis Court’ tells the story of Madeira’s relocation to the South, while songs like ‘Back In The Ocean State’ and ‘Native Son’ are really about coming home. This sense of homeward reflection is a key factor in Madeira’s song writing, illustrated through numbers like ‘Rich Man’s Town’ where he reflects on his upbringing in the Providence suburb of Barrington, much like he does in another directly biographical song of that name:
“In Barrington I grew tall, Water danced where the sun would fall;
So many memories I recall of Barrington.
Now that’s left of my family tree, Is the patch of earth where my father sleeps
There’s no one left to welcome me, In Barrington.”
This focus on family and growing up continues right to the very end of the record’s last track; ‘Gothenburg’, a moving tribute to Madeira’s grandparents who emigrated from Sweden to Providence in the 1920s, as with Madeira bowing out on the line “This is a true story of long ago – I just wanted you to know” not only bringing this biographical album to a conclusion, but, all the way back home.
Christopher James Sheridan
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‘Rich Man’s Town’ – official video: