Piano man and vocalist A.J. Croce has experienced a lifetime of comparisons to a father he lost at age two, whose music bears little resemblance to his own output yet still serves as a reference point despite the years that have passed.
With his latest album, Just Like Medicine (released August 2017 on Compass Records), Croce reveals his most soulful and truthful work to date.
His 2018 tour is under way debuting his new music including a song uncovered after 50 years, originally written by his father, but never released.
The A.J. Croce Trio performs at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Franklin Theatre.
His father, Jim Croce, was the golden-voiced everyman, a singer-songwriter- guitarist who died too soon, leaving some of pop music’s most beautiful and memorable ballads like “Time in a Bottle” in his wake.
Croce the younger is a piano man, first and foremost, and a vocal stylist second. His muted growl pulls from a host of American traditions and anti-heroes — part
New Orleans, part juke joint, part soul, but somehow evokes New York, a continuum where John Lurie meets Lou Reed. He is further a songwriter, driven by a personal muse, informed by a life on a boomerang of tragedy.
His gritty and accomplished ninth studio album is produced by legendary soul singer-songwriter and producer Dan Penn. Penn is writer of such hits as “The Dark End of the Street,” “Cry Like a Baby,” “I’m Your Puppet” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and producer of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” as well as songs and recordings by Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Blue Bland, Clarence Carter, and Alex Chilton.
Hometown Grammy Award-winning country artist Vince Gill also is on the album, along with Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the MGs, Blues Brothers, author of many Stax hits), the McCrary Sisters and the Muscle Shoals Horns.
Croce has lived longer now than his father did — at 46, he is 16 years beyond the age his father was when he died. With Just Like Medicine, an authentic version of his story, which contains both unimaginable sorrow and many blessings, can be felt and understood.
“I’ve been to therapy for 25 years and it never helped me as much as sitting down and playing the piano or writing a song,” Croce said.
The track “The Name of the Game,” is a previously unreleased song by his father — the only known completed song written for the
elder Croce’s next album, and the last song that he wrote.
“It was destined for my dad’s next record that he never got to make. The song had been bootlegged, just him playing guitar, but it had never been properly recorded. I thought this song really fits this album. We listened to a couple of my father’s demos and final recordings and tried to treat the song with the respect it deserves — while still making it my own. At the beginning of our track, Colin Linden — who’s amazing — is playing the same guitar my father wrote the song on. You can tell it’s a Jim Croce song, no doubt. And I just love Vince Gill’s playing, so I called him up to add his musical touch to it too.”
Tickets for the Feb. 3 show can be purchased online at www.franklintheatre.com or by calling the Box Office at 615.538.2076.
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