Take a look at the bio of indie rock multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer Saul Zonana, and you may understand why he chose to do it all, or at least 95% of it all, on his tenth album, Fix the Broken. Released digitally at the end of July, the CD is due out next month.
Other than drums on all but one of the tracks and some slide guitar on one and piano on another, Zonana is the only one heard playing or singing on the 10 tracks of the album. The sounds that you hear are all his. To some, this might seem the height of chutzpah, but that would depend on whether the guy has the chops to pull it off.
Music, it seems was all he cared about from the time he was an infant; it was a passion worth devoting your life to. That was then, and that “was BEFORE $99 bought you a guitar and an amp and everyone thought they were an artist. This was BEFORE we celebrated mediocrity and watched shows like American idol. This was when you wrote and performed music because it was in your blood.” If you want to put your passion on a disc, if you want it done right, no question the one way to be sure is to do it yourself. To some, this might seem like the height of chutzpah squared, but that would depend upon the guy’s ability to put his money where his mouth is.
Zonana, who has played with Ace Frehly, Adrian Belew and the Crash Test Dummies has, if nothing else, the credentials to pull it off. He uses nine different guitars on the album, so for sure you have quantity. Besides, there is no question he can play. He manages some fine vocal harmonies. And his songs, at their best are not your typical pop rock schlock. This is not the kind of music you are likely to hear on American Idol.
“The Music,” a song which could be the Zonana anthem, begins with some sweet work on the guitar and morphs into an attack on the mediocrity of much of today’s music produced by an industry that makes it sound like anybody can sing. He even recycles that bit about celebrating mediocrity. This is followed by another killer guitar solo. If you agree with Zonana’s disgust with the pop music industry, “The Music” has got to be the highlight of the album.
But, it’s not the only one: “Notice,” which begins with a very familiar melody I can’t quite pin down, asks how do you get someone to notice you—a loved one perhaps, the public for sure. “Fly” is an elegiac ballad about the ultimate escape. Jennie, who is flying from Mississippi in the end flies too far. “Big Fish” looks at the pretensions of little pond giants, and although it would be easy to see this as sour grapes, there is a passion about the music that keeps it from being sanctimonious and self-serving. “A Kiss When I’m Gone” is a father’s advice to his son, which in some respects reminds me of Polonius’s advice to Laertes.
“Abandoned Sky,” with a bit of a Beatles vibe, is an atmospheric track that builds to a smashing guitar solo. Zonana has been compared with Elvis Costello, and I think you can hear some of that on “The Old Ego.” “Beyond the Human Race” has the feel of an old time rocker.
While you may not agree with Zonana’s critique of the current music scene, it is hard not to respect his opinions. This is a talented musician with a passion for what he does, and this new album is a clear expression of both his passion and his talent. Zonana says that every song included on Fix the Broken is one “that I poured my heart in.” You can hear it in the music..