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Peter Wolf

Midnight Souvenirs – 2010 (Verve)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Peter Wolf

Even though he's been making music professionally for 45, it's probably still too soon for Peter Wolf to start looking for a theme song, something that encapsulates his career. But if he were looking for one, then Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky" from "Midnight Souvenirs," his first album in eight years, might be a good choice for that honor. After all, the one thing that Wolf's many incarnations - whether as hard-rocking front man of the J. Geils Band, or in his more Americana-bluesy solo career - has been the presence of that earthy sense of genuine emotion music lovers call 'funk."

Love is on Peter Wolf's mind on this, specifically how love dies. This is a break-up album, sort of like Frank Sinatra's "In The We Small Hours," only, you know, funkier. This is not an album you want to put on shuffle, but listen to it from first track (Tragedy, a duet with the soulful Shelby Lynne, where there's still a chance that heartbreak can be averted) to last (It's Too Late For Me with the great Merle Haggard, where one is left with nothing but "precious memories" and some hard-won wisdom). In between there is all the longing, nostalgia, false starts and emotional back-sliding that everyone who's ever had their heart broken will instantly recognize.

But the CD is also about coming together, about uniting seemingly disparate musical styles. There's no friction here as he seamlessly integrates rock, country, R&B and whatever genre he needs to tell his tale of how it feels to be in the throes of heartache. As Wolf himself said, "I think if you're a music lover, the distinction between country, blues and R&B just comes down to music. I listen to George Jones in the same way I listen to Ray Charles - they're both great vocalists." You can add Peter Wolf's name to that list.