The Party Guest

Bryan Gallo

Independent release, 2014

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


“I must confess, I am a mess / you shouldn’t want to be any part of this” sings Bryan Gallo in the opening verse of “Amber Lynn,” the kick-off track of his solo debut The Party Guest, and he does more than sell the line—he inhabits it. The narrator, like most of the characters in Gallo’s wistful folk-rock tunes, is a damaged soul trying to do what he thinks is the right thing—in this case, warning off a woman who’s attracted to him, urging her to “see somewhere there’s a better man for you.”

Gallo’s vulnerable, plaintive vocals stand at the center of these smartly-crafted songs of romantic defeat. On this debut disc, singer-songwriter Gallo is supported by Americana / alt-country quartet Butchers Blind (Brian Reilly on bass, Paul Ciancaruso on drums, and Christopher Smith on keys, with guitarist-vocalist Pete Mancini doubling as producer), who frame each of these songs with quiet elegance and gentle precision. Imagine a string of early Jayhawks or quieter Lyle Lovett tunes and you’re in the neighborhood.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Where Wallflowers Bloom” and “Waitress On Call” push a little harder, as Gallo’s narrators employ their disheveled charms on a pair of potential paramours. The latter includes a line that feels like it dropped right out of the late-night coffee-shop singer-songwriter’s little black book of come-ons: “Come let your hair down long and help me sing this song / It ain’t written yet, but if you stay with me, it might be written by the morning…”

After the quiet lament “Destined To Never,” things pick up again with the country-rock lilt of “Karma,” a tune that feels like it fell of the back end of Hollywood Town Hall (a compliment indeed). A little later on, “All These Pretty Girls” reminds how effective Gallo’s endearingly vulnerable voice can be singing a line like “I’ve gotta stop putting so much stock in all these pretty girls.”

Highlights the rest of the way include the indelible piano melody of “Moonlight Bay,” the romantic-noir narrative of “B Movie,” and the sharp ensemble support offered by Butchers Blind on the steady-rocking “On The Way Down.”

Closing things out with a nice symmetry, the title track finds Gallo singing “So when the party guests arrive tonight, I’ll be the first one there / With roses waiting in my hand and a certain sense of despair.” And indeed, our prescient narrator gets stood up by the woman he’s semi-stalking, leaving him “stupidly waiting on you knowing you’d never show.”

The Party Guest is a rather downcast affair, but Gallo manages to make despair appealing with his heart-on-the-sleeve vocals and thoughtful lyrics. Recommended for damaged romantics and glass-is-half-empty dreamers everywhere.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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