When he gets into the studio to make new music come alive with melody and color the same, Bruce Sudano almost always seems to start with a harmony. If this weren’t the case, I don’t think his new single “Ode to a Nightingale” would feel as driven by the meld of vocals and instrumentation that it is, and next to previously released content I think this might be some of his most melodic material thus far. His voice is a spotlight-stealer, but it’s given a worthy backdrop here – and perhaps the best set of challenges he’s faced in a single to date.
“Ode to a Nightingale” is built like an old school Cat Stevens track, but it isn’t lacking in modern polish. Sudano’s solo work, outside of his well-known songwriting career, is very much endeared to the retro folk-rock model, but nothing is tethering the identity of the narrative here to one school over another. Contrarily, it’s the verses and the harmonies framing them that capture the lion’s share of our attention in this single, which is saying a lot when measuring the weight of the lyrics our man is singing so brilliantly to us.
Although there have been instances when he’s been able to extend the role of the instrumentation before, I think this is the most physical composition that Sudano has experimented with, and it’s giving him a lot of hoops to jump through as a singer that he’s deftly able to navigate. It isn’t so much that he wasn’t willing to take some chances in the studio previously as he’s sounding more comfortable with the process now. This is a completely new chapter in the long and storied life in music he’s led, and it comes with a separate persona that he’s able to wear incredibly well.
Despite the delicate nature of the arrangement in this song, the narrative that Bruce Sudano is constructing out of nothing more than words, rhythm, and harmony is presented with a bit of oomph ensuring that we understand the authenticity of this player’s emotions. He doesn’t hide anything from the audience when he’s under the spotlight, and if there was any critical debate about this before “Ode to a Nightingale” arrived, I think it’s going to be pretty well snuffed out as yet another track bearing his name in the byline makes waves in the American underground and beyond.
Sudano is sounding more and more ambitious than I’m anticipating these days, but it’s translating into really passionate content in “Ode to a Nightingale” and feels promising when looking into the future of this artist’s brand. He’s made some very interesting music just in the last few years alone, and if he can keep making the harmonies stick as well as he has in the singles he’s been dropping through the 2020s, he’s going to bring on a lot more success than he experienced even early on in his career when he was initially gaining fame for his skills with a pen.
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