Let me begin by confessing I was unfamiliar with the music of Bob McSweeney and what he calls his “musical vehicle,” Planetary Nights, until his latest album arrived in the mail awhile back, and that was definitely my loss. Today Ain’t Too Late, released earlier this month, is his second studio album and it is a winner, with rocking roots as infectious as any you’re likely to hear from better known bands.
McSweeney does it all—lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, songwriter—and he does it all with dynamic originality. The album features a collection of gritty rockers that will have audiences up on their feet mixed with a couple of tender ballads that will keep them up and swaying. McSweeney has been compared to singers like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and if the comparisons seem over the top, I must admit he reminds me of John Mellencamp.
Whether it’s the hymn like “Comin’ on Home” where “no one stands alone” or the jumping “Mocha Jaydene,” about a girl that’s “long ‘n’ curvy like a country mile,” this guy can write songs and deliver them with soulful passion or playful joy. His lyrics are honest and emotionally intense. He can come up with a great line for a love song, like on “Together”: “When apart you’re still in the heart of my life.” He can write lines that tease with symbolism, too, like “Embers,” which opens the album. He can also write about the regrets over love lost as on “Ghosts in my Mind.”
But it’s not just the lyrics; his hooks stay with you. You might prefer one song to another, but there isn’t a bad one on the album. A couple songs, “Harmony” and the title track, have the makings of anthems. “Ghosts in my Mind” and “The Secret” have a mellow quiet vibe. “Breathe in the Night” and “Evangeline” have a bluesy feel, and “Rollin’ on Again” is a rootsy duet with the smoldering Dorie Colangelo. The two go well together; a few more duet tracks, an album perhaps, would go down even better.
Producer Eric “Roscoe” Ambel also plays lead guitar, providing some nice solo work on “Harmony” and “Rollin’ on Again.” Kelley Looney plays bass and Phil Cimino handles drums and percussion. Bob Arthur is on piano and organ. Dave “Snakeman” Runyan contributes some nice harmonica licks on “Evangeline;” Jeff Hermanson plays some trumpet and Mike McGinnis, sax. Backing vocals on varying tracks are by Mary Lee Kortes, Elaine Caswell, Nicki Rickards and the ever handy Ambel.
The elegant love song “Infinite Embrace” closes the album with a flourish, promising “long after laughter ‘n’ all sorrow . . .We’ll be together all tomorrows.” If McSweeney keeps putting out this kind of music, there’s not much doubt about it. This is an album that deserves to be heard.