Peter Wolf working the old, writing the new

By MIKE CHAIKEN

Peter Wolf is on the road promoting his most recent album, “A Cure for Loneliness,” which was released late last year.

But before he hit the road, he already was in the process of rehearsing his follow-up.

What will that album be like? Wolf—calling from Boston—replied, “To be honest, you never know till it’s done.”

“It’s like doing a painting,” said Wolf, who first came to prominence as lead singer of the J.Geils Band. “You don’t know till it’s finished.”

For now, he said, “I’m collecting songs, making sure they feel good to me.”

Wolf comes to Ridgefield Playhouse on Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m.

For Wolf, the genesis of a new song can come from many different directions. Some songs could be sparked by a line he hears someone say. Sometimes a song can be inspired by a musical phrase or a chord progression, he said.

“There’s no formal process,” said Wolf.

On the day Wolf was interviewed, rock and roll great Chuck Berry had just passed away. On Wolf’s Facebook page, he posted a photograph of himself with Berry.

Berry had long had an impact on the singer, known for his hard driving vocalizing when he was in the J. Geils Band.

And Berry was a definite musical influence for the singer.

Wolf said he was introduced to Berry’s music when he was young.

“My sister was a dancer on Alan Freed’s TV show,” said Wolf, referring to one of the pioneer rock and roll DJs. So he saw his first rock concert, as a fresh-faced 10 year old. And on that bill was Chuck Berry– along with Little Richard and Buddy Holly.

“When Chuck started duckwalking, that was it for me,” said Wolf. From that moment on, he was hooked on R&B.

“‘School Days’ (by Berry) was the first record (I bought),” said Wolf

“He was an amazing writer,” said Wolf of Berry who wrote such classics as “Johnny B. Good” and “Living in the USA.”

“He was able to tap into teen angst,” said Wolf.

“Each song has such a story,” said Wolf.

Wolf has long tapped into the well spring of early R&B music even when he sang rock music.

“Early rock and roll was very heavily based on R&B,” said Wolf.

“For me, and many people who got into rock and roll the time I did, like the Stones and the Beatles, R&B was very influential,” said Wolf.

“Rock and roll was one of the first great movements,” said Wolf. For instance, rock and roll helped transform the conversation about race in the nation.’

“Young kids didn’t care if Chuck Berry was black or white,” said Wolf. “He was respected for the songs he wrote and the kids loved.”

On his latest album, “A Cure for Loneliness,” Wolf veers a little bit away from R&B and rock with a little bit of bluegrass. But the bluegrass tune is one that long-time fans of Wolf will recognize in a few beats.

It’s the J. Geils Band classic, “Love Stinks.”

Wolf explained his current band is capable of tackling all kinds of different styles of music from old rock stuff, to deep down blues stuff.

“We were backstage and someone brought out a bottle of Kentucky’s finest,” said Wolf. At that point, Wolf said he began to sing, “Love Stinks” Later, he stepped on stage with the band. As the band was performing, Wolf again started singing the song again. This time, the band followed behind—this time with a bluegrass feel. Wolf said this rendition happened to be caught on tape.

The band wanted to include the track on “A Cure for Loneliness.” But, Wolf said initially, “I was hesitant.” However, the band argued that it was a unique take on the song and should have a slot on “A Cure for Loneliness.”

“They won and there it is,” said Wolf.

The set list when Wolf comes to Ridgefield will offer up a mix of his solo material, R&B songs that he never recorded but he liked, and favorites from his J. Geils Band days.

“Anything kind of goes,” said Geils. With his current band, he said he can call out so many different songs and they rip right into them.

“I’m privileged to have recorded and play with such great musicians,” said Wolf.

Peter Wolf performs at The Ridgefield Playhouse, 80 East Ridge Rd. on Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $45. For more information, go to PeterWolf.com or RidgefieldPlayhouse.org

Peter Wolf comes to Connecticut this week

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