New York Is My Home


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New York Is My Home Review

by Mark Deming

Dion DiMucci scored his first hit record in 1958 with "I Wonder Why" with his vocal group Dion & the Belmonts, which is to say, it's likely he's been making great music longer than you or most of your favorite singers have even been alive. Dion was 76 years old when he recorded the album New York Is My Home, but it doesn't sound like the work of an elderly man or an exercise in nostalgia. At heart, Dion has always been a guy who sang the blues, and for the most part that's what he does on New York Is My Home. The bulk of this material is strongly rooted in blues and R&B, and if Dion's voice doesn't soar as high as it once did, his instrument is in admirably fine condition, smooth and rich, and his sense of phrasing is superb. Dion brings intelligence and real passion to every track here, displaying the wisdom of an artist whose career has spanned seven decades thus far, while possessing the fire of an up-and-coming roots rock performer. One of the few tunes not steeped in the blues is the title cut, a duet with Paul Simon, and this low-key meditation on life in the city where Dion was born is an impressive change of pace. While Simon's contributions bring a lot to the song, the tune is clearly Dion's vehicle, and the strength of his vocals shows he need not take a back seat to anyone. "I'm Your Gangster of Love" is a believable bit of braggadocio with a fierce undertow, "The Apollo King" is a suitably raucous tribute to the legendary R&B sax man Big Al Sears, "Can't Go Back to Memphis" shows that this East Coast man knows the sounds of the South well, and "Visionary Heart" is a thoughtful number that he delivers with subtle conviction. Dion produced New York Is My Home with Jimmy Vivino (best known as Conan O'Brien's bandleader), and the album captures a classic sound that feels fresh and potent even as it references music of the past. New York Is My Home isn't a comeback, since Dion never went away -- it's simply a reminder that one of rock's greatest vocalists is still hard at work and making music you owe it to yourself to hear.

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