Welcoming the Flood (2016)
Welcoming the Flood
Often in the effort to put artists into a convenient box -- be it folk, Americana, roots rock or what have you -- we overlook the subtleties and nuances that make them unique. So while it might be tempting to typecast Scott Wolfson and his band Other Heroes one way or another, under some kind of blanket umbrella, it serves no purpose other than to deny them credit for a varied and versatile approach. Having etched a solid reputation in their native New Jersey and made themselves a name as an indie folk/rock hybrid, they turn their sophomore set into a bold synthesis of several styles, none of which offers a blanket definition of their specific sound or substance. Opening track “Never Going Back Again” suggests the verve and savvy of Tom Petty and his Heartbreakers, but that notion is quickly dispelled by the brass-infused rhythm of “And the Band Plays On,” a study in choral harmonies that meld together in a joyous convergence. The same can be said of the collective chorus that drives “We Will All Die Together,” one that culminates with a massed theatrical-like conclusion. Wolfson also proves himself to be an accomplished balladeer, particularly on songs such as “Unloved Daughter,” “Johnny Gray” and “We Can’t Go Home Again,” where the arrangements are muted to emphasize some solitary accompaniment and Wolfson’s unassuming yet emotive vocals. Ultimately then, Wolfson’s greatest achievement is his ability to follow his whims wherever they take him, asserting himself without regard to any preconceived considerations. That gives us every reason to expect that Wolfson will not only defy the norm, but all expectations as well.
This band doesn’t hesitate to ignite like a match on their fiery second collection “Welcoming The Flood.”
Scott Wolfson and his cohorts sew together a tight, fast musical tapestry with their dancehall-oriented opener: “Never Going Back Again,” and if you listen carefully and can get through the spider web of guitars – there’s a honky-tonk piano that swims under the surface that’s hot and spicy. Wolfson sings fast, serious and energetic and if this doesn’t rope and tie your ears into wanting more...then nothing will.
The second excursion is a little Spanish horn inspired and Wolfson’s vocals are warm. What’s truly remarkable is that he basically sounds like few singers today. There is a little country Robert Ellis Orrall style phrasing and tone to Wolfson's voice. Orrall had some wonderful hits recorded by others, but in the late 80’s he had an album called“Special Pain,” which featured great tunes like “Tell Me If It Hurts,” and Robert's duet with Carlene Carter on “I Couldn’t Say No.” This is where my ears hooked into when I heard Wolfson’s impressive vocals on “And the Band Plays On.” The song has a potency that helps to lock in immediate interest. Clever little percussion punctuates the tune and after two tracks I was intrigued. I looked forward to the next one and I wasn’t disappointed.
The piano driven “Unloved Daughter,” is the strongest melody on this collection. Wolfson sings with confidence, maturity and even though it solely depends of the piano of Skyler Bode -- Wolfson’s vocal is song and effective with lots of spirit. Three songs in and the album displays diversity that is exceptional. This is a band with polish on their presentation and unlike some albums that depend solely on thrilling instrumentation to carry it this album is song driven and vocal highlighted.
Scott Wolfson plays acoustic guitar and vocals throughout the album and on “Johnny Gray,” he intones with a little more restrained voice. But the tale of “Johnny Gray,” is first class folk-rock. The highs and lows are all paced wonderfully, and the back-ground singers are the wonderful Ira Scott Levin and Julia Bordenaro of The Levins who are effective with their gentle, breathy, ghostly and hauntingly intriguing vocals on this track. Scott puts his vocal to the accelerator and the song lifts off. There’s some nice Matt Laurita and Mya Byrne guitars – and Matt and Mya (lap steel) play so many different guitars and stringed instruments they are no doubt playing a key role on these tunes. This was a beautiful song…well worth multiple plays.
For effect I guess, the fifth track opens with that annoyance of scratchy old records. But“Invisible Man,” doesn’t take long to pick up its pace and the acoustic guitars chime in nicely. If nothing else, the musicians on the tracks are proficient and provide sufficient flavor. Usually back-ground singers are just that, back-ground. But so far on several tracks where they have been used these singers have been exceptional. The acoustic guitar solo here by Matt is gripping and it balances the drive in the melody. Wolfson never stays too long to bore a listener. He’s in and out and you are left…wanting more. And these tracks do just that.
Again, with a voice very much like the rock version Robert Ellis Orrall, the songs “On Avalon,” and ”We Can’t Go Home Again,” -- Scott scours his musical gifts to highly polished melodies. This is a bouncy hit inspired track: “On Avalon” -- is only 2:13 long.“We Can’t Go Home Again,” and its poignant and spacious with Chris Kelly's sharp, snapping snare shots with precise hi-hat taps that elevate this song nicely. This is one of my favorites and it has distinctive acoustic guitar picking. The album continues to unload as I'd suspected -- packed with effective songs, all stand-alone efforts and with wide musical breadth.
“Wears Me Out,” chugs along with instruments sewn together tightly and pushed along by an insistent Skyler Bode accordion. What guarantees that these songs all present themselves with healthy doses of grooves are the varied instruments integrated into zealous arrangements. Wolfson’s vocals are just strong enough without being overbearing or always center of attention. He leaves plenty of room for his musicians to shine. He may be the sky in this band but, the stars all shine on their own and brilliantly.
A duet song with Honor Finnegan is similar in spirit to the duet that Robert Ellis Orrall did with Carlene Carter and “Life and a Day,”is genuinely exciting. Accompanied by a pulsing acoustic guitar and drum shuffle the song is fun and shouldn’t music be fun?
“Me On Other Planets,” begins with strsind of mandolin and Wolfson displays again his broad sweeping style. On this track Wolfson reminds me of another singer who has multiple albums out but is probably more well-known in the UK: Martin Stephenson and the Daintees. Stephenson mines the same vein of melody and lyric with equal quality. Matter of fact, anyone who enjoys Martin’s music and recordings would embrace New Jersey’s Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes. I have played both artists back to back and they are together seamless. Each has their own strengths – but, they complement one another very well. There’s a nice old world calliope style to the music as it plays – and Wolfson’s vocal is, as always, charged with expressive vocalizing and tone.
The closing track is a sing-a-long with power. “We Will All Die Together,” -- a driving melody and Wolfson uses his wide range to really coax a reluctant ear. The overall sound is a bit inspired by England’s Stackridge who have performed this type of music for decades and are also multi-instrumentalists. (They were once produced by The Beatles’ own George Martin. I would go as far as to suggest that George Martin would have entertained the possibility of producing someone like Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes as well had fate given him more time. They sound like a band Sir George would have appreciated).
The banjos and other acoustic instruments on this tune never sound relegated as backup instruments. They are engaged and play with sparks. The songs are all impeccably recorded…in Brooklyn, NY by basically, a New Jersey band! Ha…. how incredible is that? I would have thought Nashville or Austin had given birth to this baby but I would’ve been wrong. This final song is dramatic and the end is a charm.
Forty minutes of music that takes an expressive route into your ears. It all has traction and it’s a pleasurable ride I will take again. Many side musicians added to the success of this music – too numerous to mention. But a respectable hat tip to all – I had to sit through it all with a sharpened pen poised to criticize but found nothing to discourage anyone. Even the CD package which reflects the music contained is very well conceived. The art was designed by Scott Wolfson who did a fine job. Kirk Siee assisted with the old timey logo for the band.
There are too many instruments to list – but the main band and their main contributions consists of: Scott Wolfson (Vocals, Guitar), Skyler Bode (Keys, Accordion), Matt Laurita (Guitars, Banjo), Kirk Siee (Bass, Ukulele), Chris Kelly (Drums) and Mya Byrne (mandolin, Guitar).
The album was produced by Scott Wolfson and Chris Kelly.
I am proud of this band for another reason – I am originally from a town just north of Jersey City and it thrills me to know they have musicians like this performing today. And the educational system doesn’t want to teach musical instrumentals in schools? Listen to these dudes…these people are magicians…wizards…above all, musicians from Hudson County, NJ. Whoa…toss some cold water on me.
"Scott Wolfson & Other Heroes is a talent-laden band. They're equally comfortable going electric or acoustic, and Welcoming the Flood is full of well-crafted songs that reveal new insights with repeated listening."
A few years ago we featured Bears of Legend as an epic, orchestral folk band. I had never heard anything like them before and really since, until now. There are so many majestic sounds on this album. If you’re a fan of St. Paul de Vence, the great folk band out of Seattle, then you’ll find a lot to like with Scott Wolfson and the Other Heroes. I like both “And the Band Plays On” and “Invisible Man” for two distinctly different styles (hence the phrase eclectic Americana) that show not only the versatility but also the expert execution of the band.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes (from the album Welcoming the Flood) - Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes board Welcoming the Flood with the same ship of Indie Folk that has carried them into album number two of their musical career. The New Jersey-based band weaves the theme of a voyager into the songs on Welcoming the Flood. The Other Heroes begin with a guitar crunch that clears the way for the band to keep to the ever-lasting highway vowing “Never Going Back Again” as the album questions “Johnny Gray” about his exit, puts the pedal down on a runaway beat barreling through “On Avalon”, watches dappled notes sparkle like starlight washing down on “Me on Other Planets”, and closes on the community chorus of “We Will All Die Together”.
A debut album is a function of a single mind or idea, built by a band looking at the form of the structure. A second album (ideally) showcases artists comfortable with their roles and with a clearer understanding of how to best work as a team, a unit, a band. Sonically, the Roots of Welcoming the Flood fulfills sophomore expectations as it skitters scross the songs as Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes let the rhythms jitter like the pills inside the lead character of ”Wears Me Out”, shuffle the beat to a lonely beach seeking to repopulate the human race in “Life and a Day”, and steer the course with a banjo beat heading out on a restless sea buoyed by Tex Mex horns and maritime accordions in “And the Band Played On”.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes — Welcoming the Flood "
The Other Heroes don’t waste any time letting the listener know they’ve kicked it up another notch on this latest album, scheduled for a 2016 release. Track one, “Never Going Back Again,” employs ripping electric guitar power chords as the band summons a vision of the world’s coming storms. The band continues to mature and even the quieter songs carry a bit more drama. As the songs continue to spill out of Scott Wolfson’s fertile imagination, they keep getting more infectious and intriguing."
Life on Fire (2014)
Life on Fire
“The band’s happy, full sound is infectious. Scott Wolfson’s voice is silky with an edge. The future of folk rock is here.”
“...Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes, a remarkable band from the folk Mecca of Jersey City. Their inspiring set, the last of the afternoon, had everyone on their feet singing and dancing in a spontaneous celebration that summed up what the one day conference was all about. Music that reaches people. Music that is shared. A community that raises their voice as one.”
“The lights are flashing and the crowd begins to hush in anticipation. The band tunes and takes a breath on album opener You Can’t Break Me Again before Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes follow a bubbling bass line to the main attraction, Life on Fire. As Other Heroes puts the rhythm on the fast track Scott Wolfson dares anyone looking for an easy mark that, ‘I was born broken, you can’t break me again’. A backhanded compliment but Life on Fire is not about succumbing to failure. The album is a glass-half-full — tunes that are looking for the light and finding a way out through hook laden advice and good time music. Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes have formed around the songwriting of their front man, setting up camp in Jersey City in 2011. The band plays an Indie Folk music that could work on street corners or big stages.
Subjects and characters tumble as short stories from Scott Wolfson’s pen. The tales walk a stage filled with notes plentiful as the stars in a desert night sky, and just as bright. As the concertina calls the track in, Billy Wonder and his path are introduced over determined drumming and 1972 shows that forty years can’t put a hitch in the roots Pop attack of the track, adding in Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) keyboard riffs to stay true to the calendar date. Coffee Rock is the drink of the day at Apocalypse Café, shimmery Americana counts backwards to Ten as it draw its picture and The Backseat and Me gazes out the window of a taxi cab while acoustic guitar strums push the car tune forward. Scott Wolfson changes the musical backdrop for the adventures that are the fuel for Life on Fire. There is an assured drive for these songs that adds strength to the narrative, and to the lives they touch though tender moments appear where the band spends time in peaceful reflections. That is the world they create as gentle rhythms caress Brooklyn Mermaids like soft waves lapping at the shore.”
“Scott Wolfson and the Other Heroes – Life On Fire
Scott Wolfson aspires to a fusion of style and musical audacity. The assembled group of musicians in the Other Heroes commits to this goal. Life On Fire showcases the ability of Scott and company to create an album with a diverse sound and strong lyrics throughout. The lead-off track You Can’t Break Me Again, is a buoyant honkytonk romp. It’s sly declaration, ‘I was born broken,’ reinforces the song’s title. The third track, Memory Of A Fall, is reminiscent of Tim Hardin’s classic Reason to Believe. Scott sings softly, ‘If I seem to lose my way / Do you just leave me? / Do you think you’d stay?’ Piano and cello add to the song’s gravity. 1972 borrows stylistically from that era — a synthesizer chortles giddily — to create a nostalgic, sometimes comedic look backward: ‘Laughing at the joke, as your lungs filled up with smoke’ starts a progression as the song’s protagonist attempts to grow through the decade. Brooklyn Mermaids is a soft lament for a twice-lost love: ‘So don’t love mermaids from Brooklyn / ’cause they’re gonna be who they must be…’ Stray Dogs joins the rave-up category, reaching the conclusion that ‘Everybody learns that even stray dogs find a home.’
Life on Fire rocks effortlessly and joyously and ruminates softly when it has to. We’re expecting a lot of airplay for this album.”
“Move over Aquaman and Green Hornet, there’s some new super heroes in Gotham City. Faster than a runaway bluegrass train? More powerful than teenage rave? If necessary. But this supergroup uses its powers for good. The lyrics are clever and fun. The instrumentation gives even the lame the power to dance. And the hits just keep on coming. Look, at the top of the charts: Is it the Byrds? Jefferson Airplane? If there’s any Justice League in this world, it’s Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes.”
“I am fortunate to have heard many of these songs in their genesis in a song circle format. With the release of a full length album Life On Fire , Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes has succeeded in putting out a lush, vocally rich, lyrically deep, beautifully produced body of new work. The groove is there, full of jump up and dance around the room indie-pop sounds. Now, here is the great news — the songs are smart and well written. They are odes to lost souls, lonely moments and dark nights of reckoning with hard truths cropping up: ‘Go ahead now, kick me when I’m down/ I was born broken/You can’t break me again’. This opening song caught me and I stayed on for the lonely ride from the backseat of a car going to a bleak beach town, all the way to the Last Coin where ‘you see scars/I see the stars above me…with the last coin in my pocket I’m fine’. The protagonist is coming home on a river of gold. In Scott’s music the upbeat melodies and his incredible range bely the sadness and starkness of the lyrics: ‘There are times it hurts to walk/So we crawl. And our legs may ache from the baggage we haul/But the pain is in your head/It lies instead in the memory of a fall’ or in the dark heart of Billy Wonder. Wolfson will get you dancing at The Apocalypse Cafe, then crying for the return of the Brooklyn Mermaids, one of my favorites. Ten is childlike in it’s countdown chorus but the verses caught in my heart and I felt for those children who lost their art. All in all, a fine, fresh, new sound and I am sure Scott Wolfson and his Heroes (Skyler Bode, Matt Laurita, Kirk Siee, Chris Kelly, and Jeremiah Birnbaum) should indie-rock-folk-pop their way to a much bigger audience. They are ready! Go hear them and latch onto this strangely dark but ultimately fun ride!”
“Scott Wolfson ranks high among the outstanding crop of current Indie-Folk songwriters on the NY scene. Life on Fire, the first full length CD from the band that he fronts, Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes, features catchy melodies and creative songwriting. Favorites tracks among the neighbors here in Nowheresville include Nothing To It and Apocalypse Cafe. Both songs have been chosen for “The Most Awesome Tune In Nowheresville This Week” Not bad for a debut project!”
“…Scott got the Budgiedome Seal of Approval and I’m listening to the band’s new CD as I write this…
I am so tempted to say that what I like about Scott’s music is what I like about Scott, weirdness. Remember I always use weird as a compliment and I get the feeling that Scott would be insulted if I said he wasn’t weird. But the thing is that some of his songs are weird. You Can’t Break Me Again is a jaunty tune about dark subject matter. Cognitive dissonance is the word I’m trying to avoid but it’s the right word. But usually when I use it for Scott it’s because of songs like Memory of a Fall which is lyrical, moving, and beautiful. Scott sings like an angel. And that’s where the dissonance kicks in as he’s no angel. He’s not evil, not a demon, maybe an imp. He comes across as cynical and sarcastic but he can write a song that makes you go ‘awwww.’ Of course then he writes Apocalypse Café which is exactly what you’d expect him to write. If you put Scott in a box it has to be a fractal box.”
Articles on the Band
“I get giddy when Scott Wolfson kicks off an up-tempo number. He seems to burst with an uncontainable joy, strutting in place, as if marching to the beat of his own drummer. However, his ‘own drummer,’ isn’t merely in his head, but sitting behind him. Drummer Chis Kelly, an accomplished studio musician, is a member of his band, Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes. The upbeat number in question might be You Can’t Break Me Again, a wry, acerbic spit-in-your-eye response to rejection: ‘Go ahead, kick me when I’m down / I was born broken / You can’t break me again’. Then again, it might be Nothing to It, another call for tenacity in the face of adversity. One particular favorite line, ‘Life is a four-letter word / a strange little bird that flies / because it can’t swim’, infers that you had better fly, because if you don’t, you’ll drown. This illustrates one particular reason this author is so taken with Scott’s talent — his shrewd use of metaphor. Additionally, his melodies unerringly trigger a rush of euphoria. The kicker? His arrangements. The resultant driving energy of Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes makes live performances a must-see among string band acts on the folk circuit. The keyboards prance, the mandolin shimmers, the bass romps, the lead guitar soars, and, magnetically, other musician friends are frequently drawn in, clapping or harmonizing. It’s a no-brainer, can’t lose, all-around win-win situation. You’ve gotta love ‘em.
Scott grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Both his parents were into the arts and encouraged him in any artistic endeavor. He came to New York to attend New York University, majoring in theater and music, and never left. After graduating, he worked in theater, then left and added graphics to his repertoire. Later employment led to a deeper grounding in graphics, web and presentation design. This still provides an income beyond music.
Scott was in many bands over the years. I became acquainted with him when he and Mark Allen Berube (our September 2005 cover feature artist) appeared at The Fast Folk Cafe with a four-piece band, The Right Bastards. Scott’s old friend and current Other Heroes keyboardist, Skyler Bode, also was a member. Their hard-driving sound featured biting satirical co-writes by Mark and Scott and had elements of what we hear with the Other Heroes. At one point, Scott reinvented himself as a solo artist and attended Jack Hardy’s Monday night songwriter’s co-op sessions while volunteering and performing at The Fast Folk Cafe.
In 2010, Scott had been on hiatus from music for about six years, concentrating on his graphics/business career, when a friend asked him to help create a band for someone. He agreed, but the band never jelled. However, one of the prospective band mates was bassist Kirk Siee.
Kirk and Scott bonded over their shared musical tastes and connection to Jack Hardy. They might have done something together right away, but Kirk was accompanying Jack on tour in Europe — which would turn out to be the last of Jack’s life. After returning from Europe in early 2011, Jack died that March from previously undiagnosed terminal lung cancer.
Singer/songwriter and friend Carolann Solebello, formerly of Red Molly, had become involved with the (now defunct) Christopher Street Coffeehouse at St. John’s Church in the West Village and coaxed Scott to play there. When a memorial service was organized at the coffeehouse with all of Jack’s musician friends coming together to play his songs, Scott was asked to participate. Kirk, playing with many musicians that night, joined Scott on one of Jack’s songs.
That summer, Scott joined Kirk at the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, hanging out at Jack’s old Pirate Camp. They started playing together on Scott’s songs and decided afterward to form a group. Skyler Bode immediately came on board.
Guitarist Matt Laurita met Scott through mutual friends and quickly proved to be the perfect lead guitarist.
The following year at Falcon Ridge, when rain kept the band hunkered down at Pirate Camp, Mya Byrne sat in on mandolin and became the next member.
Scott met Chris Kelly at a Bitter End benefit show where he played bass. He was surprised at a later Other Heroes gig to see Chris playing drums with another band. The Other Heroes had found their drummer.
This is Scott’s first band that is totally dedicated to expressing his musical vision. He knows he’s been fortunate to gather a group of talented friends. Scott gives each person room to stretch individually on songs. There is a constant flow of other musicians eager to sit in with the group, so he must be doing something right. Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes continues to expand their performance range. Acoustic Live reviewed its album Life On Fire in our December 2013 issue. The members make enough on gigs to cover expenses which allows them to indulge in another endearing trait — doing benefits for causes they believe in. If there’s one cause I believe in, it’s trumpeting the making of a joyous sound. Here’s one I hope readers will support as well. See them, buy their music and help these heroes defeat the evil axis of corporate elevator music.”