Over 25 years since breaking through to critical and commercial acclaim with his 1982 self-titled debut and its infectious, era-defining pop hit “Someday, Someway,” Marshall Crenshaw creates an incredible new chapter in his career with his 429 Records debut Jaggedland. Crenshaw’s first studio recording in more than six years is his most musically dynamic and lyrically intimate collection yet.
Classic Crenshaw attributes including an indelible sense of melody and tuneful essence combine to create a rich warmth and intimacy on every song of Jaggedland. The recording has a powerful vibe of immediacy thanks to Crenshaw’s warm vocals and riveting guitar work. He takes the production to its highest levels working with a roster of well known musical heroes and veteran producers. Crenshaw first recorded two tracks in Upstate New York with Stewart Lerman (The Roches, Dar Williams), the melancholy “Sunday Blues” and the fiery rocker “Someone Told Me.” Crenshaw did seven of the tracks at Sage and Sound Studios in Los Angeles with producer/engineer Jerry Boys (REM, Richard Thompson, Buena Vista Social Club), who had been his “wish list” since he heard the Mambo Sinuendo album Boys engineered for Ry Cooder and Cuban guitarist Manuel Galban in 2003. Highlights of these West Coast sessions are “Passing Through,” the hopeful “Eventually” and the powerful “Long Hard Road.”
The album title Jaggedland is a term Crenshaw says best describes the current state of his brain and consciousness. Simply put, the 12 songs are musical observations about the human experience, mortality, the state of the world and of course, love as viewed through the inimitable Crenshaw perspective. The sessions involved key contributions from legendary drummer Jim Keltner (whose credits include The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson and Joni Mitchell); guitarists Greg Leisz (Lucinda Williams, Robert Plant) and the MC5’s Wayne Kramer as well as legendary vibraphonist, Emil Richards (Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Frank Sinatra).
“It was exciting and inspiring to work with such amazing musicians and producers. I fell in love with Mambo Sinuendo five years ago,” Crenshaw continues, “and when I started thinking about recording my next record, Jerry immediately came to mind. When I found out that he was once an assistant engineer for The Beatles--that sealed the deal!”
“I also owe Stewart Lerman much of the credit for getting the ball rolling and inspiring me to start thinking about writing and recording this album,” Crenshaw adds. “When we ran into each other at a political event in 2004, he gave me a pep talk and said he wanted to work with me. We hooked up about a year later and I started dabbling in new songs. As things went along, I started to feel like the material was taking on some unexpected dimensions and it dawned on me that I still have such a huge appreciation and respect for records as an art form—and a deep love for the power of songs and music. Even at this late stage of the game, with so many years and recordings behind me, I felt compelled to step up and reach as deep into myself as I could. That renewed sense of passion and commitment is the driving force behind the songs on Jaggedland, which I truly believe are some of my best ever.”
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Crenshaw began playing guitar at age ten and he received his first break playing John Lennon in the off-Broadway company of Beatlemania. In 1987, he played Buddy Holly in the Richie Valens biopic “La Bamba.”
Living in NYC, he recorded the single “Something’s Gonna Happen” for Alan Betrock’s Shake Records, which led to a deal with Warner Bros. His debut album, Marshall Crenshaw was acclaimed as a pop masterpiece upon its release in 1982 and established him as a first-rate songwriter, singer and guitarist. The record spawned the Top 40 single “Someday, Someway,” which rockabilly singer Robert Gordon scored a hit with a year earlier. Crenshaw’s second album, 1983’s Field Day, was another critical smash and led to a successful slate of 20-plus years of studio recordings that offered a fascinating evolutionary journey through an array of musical landscapes.
A quote from Trouser Press sums up Marshall Crenshaw’s early career: “Although he was seen as a latter-day Buddy Holly at the outset, he soon proved too talented and original to be anyone but himself.” All Music Guide captured Crenshaw’s vibe perfectly: “He writes songs that are melodic, hooky and emotionally true, and he sings and plays them with an honesty and force that still finds room for humor without venom.”
As Crenshaw was developing Jaggedland’s mix of poignant and incisive love songs and musings on mortality, he ventured once again into the film world, co-penning the title track to the hilarious, critically acclaimed John C. Reilly film “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”; the track was nominated for a 2008 Golden Globe and a 2008 Grammy Award.
Over the last few years, Crenshaw has played 40 - 50 shows a year on what he dubs “the NPR singer-songwriter circuit.” Says Crenshaw, “This album took a lot of wear and tear on my emotions, but in the end I think it’s one of my best ever and I am so excited to have worked with so many of my favorite players on it. When people ask me why I keep making music after all these years, I have a simple answer: because I have to. For lack of a more colorful term, there is truly something magical to it and I never take it for granted.”