Piano man and vocalist, A.J. Croce, will appear at the Franklin Theatre on Feb. 3 at 8 pm debuting new music which includes a song uncovered after 50 years, originally written by his father but never released.
His father, Jim Croce, was the golden-voiced everyman, a singer-songwriter-guitarist who died too soon, leaving some of pop music’s most beautiful and memorable ballads like “Time in a Bottle” in his wake.
Croce the younger, on the other hand, is a piano man, first and foremost, and a vocal stylist second. His muted growl pulls from a host of American traditions and anti-heroes — it’s part New Orleans, part juke joint, part soul, but somehow evokes New York, a continuum where John Lurie meets Lou Reed. He is further a songwriter, driven by a personal muse, informed by a life on a boomerang of tragedy.
His gritty and accomplished ninth studio album, produced by legendary soul singer-songwriter and producer Dan Penn, is the latest and arguably greatest effort yet. Penn is writer of such hits as “The Dark End of the Street,” “Cry Like a Baby,” “I’m Your Puppet” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” and producer of the Box Tops’ “The Letter,” as well as songs and recordings by Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Blue Bland, Clarence Carter, and Alex Chilton. Also making appearances on the album are Grammy Award-winning country artist Vince Gill, Steve Cropper (Booker T. & the MGs, Blues Brothers, author of many Stax hits), the McCrary Sisters and the Muscle Shoals Horns.
Croce has lived longer now than his father did — at 46, he is 16 years beyond the age his father was when he died. With Just Like Medicine, an authentic version of his story, which contains both unimaginable sorrow and many blessings, can be felt and understood. The new album is an exploration of relationships, the disappointments and the confusion, and reflects Croce’s realization about the role music has played in his life. “I’ve been to therapy for 25 years and it never helped me as much as sitting down and playing the piano or writing a song.”
The track “The Name of the Game,” is notable for many reasons. One is that it finds Croce connecting with a part of his soulful legacy that hits close to home because the bluesy gem is a previously unreleased song by his father — the only known completed song written for the elder Croce’s next album, and the last song that he wrote. A.J. explains, “‘The Name of the Game’ is a song I had known about for a really long time. It was destined for my dad’s next record that he never got to make. The song had been bootlegged, just him playing guitar, but it had never been properly recorded. I thought this song really fits this album. We listened to a couple of my father’s demos and final recordings and tried to treat the song with the respect it deserves — while still making it my own. At the beginning of our track, Colin Linden — who’s amazing — is playing the same guitar my father wrote the song on. You can tell it’s a Jim Croce song, no doubt. And I just love Vince Gill’s playing, so I called him up to add his musical touch to it too.”
Tickets for the February 3rd show can be purchased online at www.franklintheatre.com or by calling the Box Office at 615.538.2076.