Sleepless (Artemis)

Peter Wolf 

Sleepless (Artemis)

With health care next to useless, layoffs potentially around anyone's corner and bridges literally falling apart in the middle of rush hour, it's nice to hear somebody -- anybody -- talking about the harsh reality of our surroundings. In its own way, Sleepless is as political as Steve Earle's Jerusalem or Bruce Springsteen's The Rising, but the former J. Geils Band frontman, who used to sing about his angel being a centerfold, now moans about losing his angel to Old Man Death. When Wolf sings Every little thing is a growing pain -- and he doesn't mean it in "that which doesn't kill me makes me stronger" sense -- it's the perfect mantra for this era.

Sleepless has a slinky, lush feel, with lots of acoustic guitar and mandolin touches to keep it grounded. The "Tumbling Dice" echoes of "Nothing but the Wheel" don't come just from Mick Jagger's guest vocal; there's an Exile on Main Street vibe to the whole thing that makes its subtle, difficult lyrics linger. Wolf also credibly captures blues classics like Otis Rush's fast, funny "Homework" and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Too Close Together" (I had two fine chicks living door to door/That was too close together), making it clear that he had a lot to do with those wonderful, pre-Centerfold J. Geils years.

"A Lot of Good Ones Gone" is a hymn about carrying on in spite of regret -- surprising regret in this case, because if Wolf's extensive, intriguing notes make nothing else clear, they establish that he's had a pretty fascinating life. Sleepless chronicles the need for comfort, the need for rest, the need for everything to please just settle the fuck down. Wolf throws out a few answers, too, mostly the need to hold someone close, then closer. In the meantime, just singing about it seems to help a great deal.

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