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Sphere on Spiral Stairs

I don't release records, they escape.
This album broke out on November 20, 2023
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Bo Menart’s The Trane Mob, the follow-up to the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter-guitarist’s 2019 debut Out of the Woodshed, and is like its predecessor, a stirring, smartly penned, and crisply played serving of roots-based rock. Produced by Menart (with one number, the album-closing version of David Bowie’s “When I Live My Dream,” co-produced by multi-instrumentalist and arranger Craig T Fall), the set comprises a dozen tracks: seven Menart originals, one co-written with former band mate Fred Guerra, and four covers.


The featured players include three veterans of the previous album: bassist-vocalist Larry Antonino (Jeff Beck, Ronnie Laws, Al Jarreau, Pablo Cruise), keyboardist Arlan Schierbaum (Joe Bonamassa, the Pointer Sisters, Mandrill) and drummer Stacey Lamont Sydnor (the Jacksons, Mandrill). Also lending their talents are such top-flight L.A.-area musicians as Fall (Stevie Wonder, the Beach Boys,  Glen Campbell), drummer Darren Elpant (Peter Tork), guitarist Nick Kirgo (Julee Cruise, David Lynch, Les McCann, JD Souther), bassist Taras Prodaniuk (Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson), bassist Chad Watson (Charlie Rich, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Freddy Fender), and Chad’s wife, vocalist Pam Loe.


Cleveland-born Menart sports weighty credentials of his own. He played in the groups Amigo and Kadara. As an engineer, he worked with a who’s who list of artists and producers, including producer Phil Spector (on the Ramones’s End of the Century and sessions with Celine Dion), and the soundtrack for the cult classic The Warriors. In the 90’s, he served as the head of the independent record label Terra Nova Records. In 2005, after a lifetime of helping other artists, he decided to focus on his own music-making activities. With the release of Out of the Woodshed in 2018, following nearly a decade of work (hence the record’s title), Menart quickly made plans for another album. He envisioned the formation of a working group, and he even picked out a handle for it: “Michelle Higgs, who sang and played piano on my first album, suggested I call my band The Trane Mob. She said, ‘It’s your name, backwards.’ And, of course, being a John Coltrane fan, I thought that was cool too. My original intention was to put together a band, rehearse the songs, and then go into the studio and record it pretty much live, the basic tracks at least. But it didn’t work out that way.”

He began work in 2019 with Fall, whose FaceBook videos of his 12-string work led him to seek out the guitarist. He didn’t have to look far: “Craig lives within walking distance from me,” he says. The two musicians laid down tracks for a cover of George Harrison’s ringing Byrds-inspired number “If I Needed Someone” and the Menart original “Love Addiction.” 

“Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” Bo recalls, “it was like, ‘Whoa! We can’t get the band together!” I did a couple of songs with Darren Elpant at his studio. Then I just started laying down guitars and vocals with a click track and he’d do the drums, and we’d build everything around that. And it worked out.”


Like many other musicians forced to contend with the restrictions the COVID lockdown placed on studio projects, Menart responded by employing remote recording. “Everybody has a studio,” he says, who records in his Sunland home. “We’d all been doing it before, so it just became part of the process. Arlan, the keyboard player, lives in Greece. It’s no different than if he was still living in North Hollywood - I just sent him the tracks, and he recorded his parts and sent it back.”


The situation produced some remarkable results, he says: “In some ways it actually worked out better for me because I could make sure that everything was done exactly the way I wanted to hear it. For instance, on the song ‘Back in My Heart,’ I thought it was amazing that it could sound that tight, and those people never met each other.”


Two of the album’s originals were inspired by dreams. “I’ll Catch You If I Can” sprouted from one in which Bo heard Linda Ronstadt singing a chorus from a song it turned out he had imagined. Likewise, “The Rivers of My Life” was spawned by a nocturnal vision of himself producing a Walker Brothers-like group at Capitol Records in the early ‘60s; he awoke and finished the song in 45 minutes. He remembers, “It was like taking dictation. I had no idea what it meant until months later.” 

“Back in My Heart” was a collaboration with Fred Guerra, Menart’s former songwriting partner in the band Amigo, which originally recorded the song in a slower arrangement in 1984.

“Love Forever Changes” is Bo’s musical tribute to the classic 1967 album Forever Changes by the L.A. group Love.


Besides the Beatles tune, the covers on The Trane Mob include “She’s a Young Girl Now,” by Menart’s late friend David Beaudry, and “Pocket Knife,” by his Sunland neighbor Jeb Lipson. The album concludes with “When I Live My Dream,” which originally appeared on David Bowie’s 1967 debut album. “I’d always thought, ‘I’m going to go into Capitol Studios with a 30-piece orchestra and a really good arranger, and cut it like that,’” Menart says. “I realized that’s not going to happen. Craig had played me some stuff that he’d worked on, orchestral pieces for shows, and I thought, ‘Oh, this guy can do this.’ That was really a revelation, because it turned out exactly the way I wanted it.”


With The Trane Mob (the album) wrapped, Bo Menart is ramping up to take The Trane Mob (the band) to the stage. “We’ll be hitting the clubs soon, and hopefully concert venues by the end of 2024.”

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