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“Can I get these lyrics engraved on my tombstone?” — John Dee Graham
When people talk about the merits of Americana, a sound that can sometimes feel mail-order anonymous, what they want is the rare thing that Velghe has cultivated: music whose familiarity and honesty pull at your gut instead of just reassuring you.  What Velghe has found in the wake of these losses is a powerful set of songs. ” — Natalie Gallagher, The Pitch

“Each song on this record finds a way into your mind and latches on, which is something to attribute to their knack for giving you what you think you hear and then skimming off the top, breaking your expectations and sliding in that melancholy undertone that hits before you even see it coming.  — Ethan Skelton, The Equal ground

“A taut, crisp production; rich, full-bodied songs with strong arrangements, brass, backing singers – even a guest appearance from the now-legendary Alejandro Escovedo adds up to a beefy pop album that’s full of melody and warmth.”Rob Ross, Pop Dose

“There are records we meet and immediately become part of our lives. We listen to them through our forever. This is one of those records.” — Angela Lupton, The Deli

1. Don’t Understand Your Home Town
2. Beaten By Pretenders (feat. Alejandro Escovedo)
3. On The Interstate
4. Gold Guitar
5. Set It Fire
6. Organ Donor Blues (feat. Alejandro Escovedo)
7. Pyramids and Counterfeits
8. Singers Let You Down
9. Poison The Well
10. Love’s No Place
11. Big Tent Revival

Official Release Date: June 24th, 2014

John Velghe vocals, guitars, keyboards
The Prodigal Sons are:

Mike Alexander: guitars, backing vocals
Matt Anderson: drum set
Sam Hughes: saxophone
Hermon Mehari: trumpet
Chris Wagner: bass, backing vocals
Mike Walker: trombone

Additional Performers:

Kirsten Paludan: vocals 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 12
Alejandro Escovedo: vocals 2, 6, 11 and guitars 4, 9
Josh Quint: pedal steel guitar 3, 5, 6

John Velghe & The Prodigal Sons team up with friend and Austin music legend, Alejandro Escovedo, on sophomore Lakeshore Records release,  Organ Donor Blues.

Over the course of his 15 year career, John Velghe has established himself as a particularly conscientious and talented tender of the rock and soul flame. The Independence born musician/songwriter has played with several noteworthy Kansas City bands, but it is his latest work, with the Prodigal Sons, which has given him a big enough vehicle for his ambitious vocal reach and vista-vision poetry. John Lennon and Chuck Berry lie at that core, but the guitars, horns and supportive backing vocals in this band allow Velghe to seamlessly blend other pieces of the greater rock story—from Sun to Stax to 2 Tone and Twin Tone. Organ Donor Blues is the perfect album for such a big sound. It’s both a record for rock’s true believers and a bare-knuckled face off with reality.

Guitars and horns blazing, the defiant charge of this album’s first three songs do not hide their troubles—the big themes are not fitting in and not giving up, the stakes no less than life and death—but it’s that fourth song, “Gold Guitar,” that truly ups the ante. “Nobody dances in Philly,” Velghe says of the American dance capitol, raising a red flag. Over a menacing swamp riff, a shimmer of sustain, a wordless backing vocal and mournful horns, he then describes the rock and soul apocalypse:

“It’s like the songs, never made a sound. It’s like the rain, never kissed the ground. It’s like the roads never crossed down South.”

This isn’t just a world where Robert Johnson wouldn’t have sold his soul to play guitar; this is a world where the blues were never invented, much less the outrageous mix of country, gospel and Rhythm and Blues at the heart of American pop. But the fact of this song that begins with references to the great guitarist/rock archivist Lenny Kaye and rock’s True Believers’ Alejandro Escovedo and Jon Dee Graham is that the music was indeed born and lived one hell-raising life. The chill is that maybe it didn’t matter. Fortunately, that track ends throwing a sturdy lifeline. Folks in the club may talk over most of the singer’s heroes, but they can’t ignore Jon Dee Graham because “the gold guitar is still so loud.”

Velghe’s band explodes into a crescendo of prowling guitar, urging horns and wailing background vocals before dropping away to a muscular drum beat, insisting on the physical inevitability of call and response. If there’s a heavier build on the album, it’s probably Alejandro Escovedo and Mike Alexander’s guitar battle at the end of “Poison the Well,” a song that paints the abyss and wonders over the outcome of the fall.

When I first asked Velghe about this sophomore Prodigal Sons CD, he said, “It’s about people who fight to die and win and people who fight to live and lose, and it asks what you do when they’re gone.” Kansas Citians will think of names like Jim Strahm and Abigail Henderson, both dear friends of Velghe and their mutual comrade-in-arms Escovedo, who almost lost his own battle with ill health a few short years ago. But the theme is universal, with a special poignancy for people who believe in their culture as more than mere entertainment.

This is an album about not fitting in and trying to build something better. It’s also about failure: not living up to promises, falling for illusions, getting caught up in contradictions and fearing what you want most. It celebrates that happiness exists, ephemeral as it is, in the dreamy country rock of “Set It Fire,” and it arrives at a few articles of faith.

The unassuming rocker “On the Interstate,” defines perhaps the only thing that really matters, those connections still holding “when no one cares.” One such connection shines forth on the gently rocking title track, with Velghe and Escovedo calling on each other to “hold tight to who you are.”

That’s a great one. But closer “Big Tent Revival” manages to sound even bigger than all that came before—an eight-cylinder, wide-open rocker bent on convincing everyone involved that, if only because we’ve got each other in the music, “we’ll be all right tonight.” In so doing, John Velghe and the Prodigal Sons make a righteous case, not only for the sake of this album but for rock and roll itself.

–Danny Alexander