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Albums Of The Week: Joe Grushecky | American Babylon 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

Come for the Boss co-writes & cameos. Stay for the muscular heartland rock.

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THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Long a fixture on the Pittsburgh music scene, originally fronting the Iron City Houserockers, Joe Grushecky is the son of a coal miner. His “day job” is in special education. He has become a legend among heartland rockers. His loyal following is testimony to his down-to-earth approach and honesty as a songwriter, bandleader and performer since the 1970s.

American Babylon, first issued in 1995, was produced by Bruce Springsteen, whose friendship with Grushecky predates the album’s sessions and has endured in the intervening decades. The new American Babylon 2 CD set offers 27 tracks including the album’s original 12 selections, including Chain Smokin’, Only Lovers Left Alive, What Did You Do In The War as well as Homestead and Dark and Bloody Ground, the latter two co-written with Springsteen. Original demo recordings of Chain Smokin’, Never Be Enough Time and Only Lovers Left Alive, never previously released, round out the first disc.

A 13-track companion disc documents live performances recorded n Pittsburgh during the Houserockers’ legendary October Assault tour that launched the album that month in 1995. Joe and the band performed not only in Grushecky’s hometown but also in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Asbury Park as well. Springsteen is heard on eight of the album’s tracks and his voice is heard on Light of Day, his own song, as well as on the Chuck Berry version of Down The Road Apiece, the album’s closer. One track featured on the live disc that is not part of the American Babylon tune stack is Pumping Iron, a fan favorite from The Iron City Houserockers’ 1980 Have A Good Time But Get Out Alive album.

On the topic of collaborative songwriting, Grushecky commented, “It’s a great thing for me to write with a talent like Bruce who is obviously one of the greats. I think that in a quiet way it sort of says something about my writing ability.” The collaboration was not pre-planned and came about quite organically. Joe recalled, “I was thinking about making a new record and had a couple songs written. My wife suggested ‘Why don’t you ask Bruce to play?’ I hemmed and hawed for a while and finally we got in touch. It sort of just took on a life of its own. It was fun working with Bruce; he added little twists and turns that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own which made the record a lot of fun to do musically. Once we got together, it just seemed like we were real sure of what we were doing. There wasn’t a lot of second guessing and pulling your hair thinking, ‘Is this good?” We just sort of went in and did it in a very relaxed atmosphere, so it was fun.”