A Look Back – John D. Lamb Offers a Wise View of the Past on ‘Good Hart’ Album

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John D. Lamb’s latest album features 12 storied tracks filled with forthright lyrics, humorous and nostalgic reflections, and kinetic ‘70s-fueled instrumentation. Photo – Mark Foril

These days, John D. Lamb views life through a clearer, wiser lens.

The Royal Oak, Michigan folk-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist revisits past relationships, experiences and lessons with gratitude on his latest album, Good Hart, via Mezzanotte Records.

“My executive producer [Bill Vlasic] said, ‘It sounds like you’ve reached a point now where you can look back,’” Lamb said. “And I thought, ‘I suppose, there are some cautionary tales.’”

Alongside those cautionary tales are 12 storied tracks filled with forthright lyrics, humorous and nostalgic reflections, and kinetic ‘70s-fueled instrumentation.

“When I was done with the record, I was trying to think of a title for it, and I was looking for whatever the overall theme might be,” said Lamb, who’s inspired by Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce, Warren Zevon and John Prine.

“I had thought about naming it after one of the songs … and I went through a bunch of different titles, but I thought Good Hart was really the only thing I could call it because that’s where we recorded it.’”

Lamb recorded his fifth album with co-producers Michael Crittenden and Jim Bizer last April at Good Hart Artist Residency in Good Hart, Michigan. They spent two 15-hour days laying down tracks for the album in a beautiful house located 35 minutes southwest of Mackinaw City.

“It’s built for painters and artists, and they recently started having songwriters and composers there,” he said. “I had use of the place for a few days, so I invited Michael and Jim to come up north … we were isolated and just had the lake out of our windows.”

Those picturesque surroundings also allowed Lamb to reflect on the album’s nostalgic sentiment and how time has shaped his own “good heart.”

“I felt that, too. At first, I thought it was kind of audacious to say that, but by taking the ‘e’ out and realizing it’s a town name, I thought, ‘Oh, OK,’” Lamb said. “It wasn’t my first choice, but several people said it has to be that, and I said, ‘OK, you’re right.’”

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Suburban Stories – Matthew Milia Revisits Metro Detroit Memories on ‘Keego Harbor’

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Matthew Milia’s “Keego Harbor” captures a beautiful legacy of life unchanged in the metro Detroit suburbs. Photo – John Hanson

For Matthew Milia, Keego Harbor represents a nostalgic, metro Detroit road trip from youth to adulthood and back again.

The Detroit indie folk singer-songwriter and Frontier Ruckus frontman eloquently drifts through deep childhood recollections, gritty suburban landmarks and dichotomous neighborhood adventures on his well-crafted second solo album.

“This has been a lifelong obsession, especially with the suburban world. It’s inspired by the fact that the suburban experience is not monolithic. It’s all these mingling beautiful dualities and contradictions of the human experience that live in this space,” said Milia, who grew up in Keego Harbor.

“I’m juxtaposing Pontiac and Bloomfield Hills because those places are contiguous, and they couldn’t be more different. That’s a hard thing for people that don’t live in this area to understand. My endless personal quest is to give as much vivid description and detail of these contradictions that I’ve experienced.”

Throughout Keego Harbor, Milia intricately constructs snapshots of mundane Michigan experiences – junk mail, rotten mulch and phone chargers – and static places – party stores, drive-thru lanes and nail salons – across 10 introspective tracks to capture a beautiful legacy of life unchanged.

“I think this record is a bit more about generational inheritance. My parents met in Keego Harbor at a place called the Back Seat Saloon that’s no longer there, and the first placed they lived together was in a little loft above a house. The age I am now is when they were doing all that. It’s a bit of time travel while seeing myself as my parents and all the things that entails,” he said.

While much of Keego Harbor remains in the rear-view mirror of the mind’s eye, another portion welcomes the uncertain future with outstretched arms. It’s a matter of looking toward the past to better understand who you’ve become and where you’re headed, whether that’s in a city or a suburb.

“I’m also thinking on another level about my experience in the music industry. It’s such a weird commerce to toil in, and my life since 2006 has been writing these songs and making these records with my friends and putting them out into the world and seeing where they take me,” Milia said.

“I think that a major trope of this record is the recalibration of one’s dreams and expectations. And knowing that immense beauty and surprise can be hiding there. Once you recalibrate what you think you wanted or were working toward, you might just find something even more rewarding.”

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