Pete Molinari

A Virtual Landslide

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Pete Molinari's fondness for Bob Dylan is clear, as reflected in his vocal style as well as his songwriting, and if his bare-bones first album, Walking Off the Map, sounded a bit like one of Dylan's early John Hammond-produced sessions, his second disc, A Virtual Landslide, plays as if Molinari made the leap overnight into a sound that combines the shades of both Blonde on Blonde and New Morning, with a dose of vintage pop shining through the cracks. Molinari cut A Virtual Landslide with a small but sympathetic backing band at London's home of vintage analog technology, Toe Rag Studios, and the sad, sweet beauty of B.J. Cole's steel guitar and the strong melodic moorings of Carwyn Ellis' keyboards give these 12 songs just the right ambience, a blend of folk, blues, pop, and country flavors that are the ideal complement for Molinari's road-worn tenor and roots-conscious melodies. While Dylan has clearly been a major influence on Molinari, on A Virtual Landslide one hears the evidence in his vocal phrasing and the clean but strong lines of his melodies rather than aping Dylan's most obvious qualities, and while he certainly reaches for the great songwriter's literacy, the intelligence of this material doesn't sound derivative, dealing with stories of life and love that sound intelligent but don't wallow in self-pity or esoteric symbolism. If anything, Molinari's lyrics suggest the flinty wisdom of Dylan's Love and Theft and Modern Times, and if he isn't quite working at the master's level, he's gotten pretty close for a guy who hasn't been making records since 2006, and "I Don't Like the Man That I Am," "Look What I Made," and "One Stolen Moment" demonstrate Molinari has some tales of his own to tell that are well worth hearing. A Virtual Landslide is a smart and fully realized work from one of the U.K.'s most promising singer/songwriters.

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