What do you get when you mix together three veteran musicians who have been around since punk first hit the stages of New York City (NYC) and Toronto? You get New York Junk‘s EP, Dreaming, released July 23 on Tarbeach records.
Joe Sztabnik (guitar and lead vocals), Cynthia Ross (bass and vocals), and Gary Barnett (drums) have been in the music war trenches for a long time. They’ve seen friends and loved ones pass away and have played with some of the icons of punk and rock and roll. They are survivors and musicians and they bring all of that life experience to their music.
This isn’t polished or pretty. This is gritty, uncompromising, straight off the sidewalk rock and roll. The type you’d expect to see if you walked into a gritty club in NYC’s lower East Side or some warehouse basement in Toronto. If either of those places still existed. This is music which smells of stale beer and cigarette smoke – and bars whose bathrooms bring fear into the hearts of lesser beings.
While Dreaming might have its antecedents in rock and punk from years ago, it isn’t simply an exercise in nostalgia. New York Junk didn’t look to the past when they wrote these songs, they looked around them for inspiration. Songs like the “Scared”, which captures and expresses the general anxiety of the times, and “Dreaming”, with its echoes of Graham Parsons and early 1970s Rolling Stones, manage to bridge the past and the present seamlessly.
One of the most powerful songs, and in someways its most NYC song, of the recording kicks off the disc; “Gutter Angels”, (lyrics by Puma Perl and music by Sztabnik) . With lyrics like “The Gutter Angels up in Heaven/ looking down upon us all/Bless the homeless/Bless the dope fiends/Bless the sidewalks where they fall”.
Not many people have the bravery and the compassion to write a song for those who fall through the cracks and that nobody else gives a shit for. With this track New York Junk have written one of the best you’ll hear. Sztabnik’s raw and powerful voice scrapes out the song’s lyrics with an intensity and passion that needs to be heard to be believed.
New York Junk is a bare bones band in only their physical make up. Sure a trio of bass, drums, and guitar might appear limited on the surface, but the passion and expertise that go into an album don’t depend on the number of people in a band, but what they bring to it as individuals and musicians.
In this case each of the band is playing for the love of it and it shines from the album’s opening note to the last echo fades away. You don’t play music like New York Junk does and in the hopes of being famous or a star, you do it because it’s who you are.
Dreaming from New York Junk is a great EP redolent of the past but rooted strongly in the present. Three great experienced musicians bringing rock and roll to life. Its being released digitally on July 23 2020 and then as a limited edition red vinyl record in September 2020.