Bob Pressner – King of Nothing (2012)

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Bob Pressner sings with a timeless, almost mythological passion — sorting through the promise and the disappointments of life with a knowing eye.

He’s seen them both, amid the rubble of the first World Trade Center bombing in the 1990s. Working then as a commodities trader, he made his way through a smoke-filled staircase to the WTC’s garage, only to find himself trapped there with a destroyed car. Eventually Pressner discovered a dim passage way out, and in ways large and small his life was never the same.

He left for Florida with his family and left his old job for the new dream of songwriting. The resulting songs reflect both ends of the emotional spectrum — that dark day in New York City, and his sun-filled present.

He can modulate his vocals, as on “King of Nothing” with its lingering guitar asides and whispery drum brush work, into the quivering reminiscence of Lindsey Buckingham’s best work. “Next Summer Never Came,” meanwhile, uses an R.E.M.-esque jangle to go deeper into this billowing sense of loss. A 1970s-ish country-rocking melancholy pervades through “The Blue Has Left Your Eyes” and “Water Water” too.

At the same time, though, Pressner sprinkles in these crunchy rockers: He imbues “iGirl” with a Tom Petty-ish grit, to go with a soaring, anthematic chorus. “Renaissance Man,” all churning guitars and rockabilly rhythm, arrives with even more menace, and Pressner gamely howls and chirps along. “Too Old to Die Young” has this brusque acoustic riff, like an angry Dylan song. Though “Thinking Man” and “Heart of a Champion” don’t rock, per se, but — with lines like “we all fall, we all rise” on the former — they each boast a stubburnly optimistic outlook that balances the sadder sentiments that surround them.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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