As he walked into a remote Hoboken studio last year to record his ninth solo record, Marshall Crenshaw brought his bag of stuff with him. He uses the bag to carry tapes, papers, a couple of pens and other miscellaneous items.When the recording was completed and 11 tracks of pure Crenshaw mellow folk music were compiled, Crenshaw had just one more thing to do: find a title for the album.
He couldn't use his name, since he already had for his debut record. Crenshaw was looking for something simple, catchy and poignant.
After contemplating the name for several days, he decided to go with What's In The Bag? (Razor&Tie records).
"The idea for the name came from having the bag with me during recordings," he said. "I even kept the album's master recordings in the bag. So the bag played a big role."
Bag will be available in stores on July 22. It's catchy and soulful. Crenshaw uses simple hooks to invite his listeners to sit back and enjoy the melodies that range from soft-pop rock to acoustic folky singer/songwriter.
In "A Big Heavy Hot Dog," the album's last track, the artist escapes into a jam session reminiscent of '80s Dire Straits. On romantic songs like "Will We Ever" and "Take Me With U" (the album's single) Crenshaw displays his singer/songwriter talents, which have matured during his more than two-decade career. The tracks are radio friendly and deep.
In "Will We Ever," he ponders whether he'll get to see his love again. Crenshaw's integrity and honesty allow him to present the song without traces of bubble-gum pop.
To promote Bag, Crenshaw is touring the region and will perform on July 24 at 7 p.m. at Sinatra Park in Hoboken. The show is sponsored by The Hudson Reporter newspaper group and The Guitar Bar in Hoboken. Opening for Crenshaw is New York-based up-and-coming singer/songwriter Courtney Lee Adams Jr.
Hoboken has become one of Crenshaw's definite stops during his tours. He has performed at the Hoboken festival and several Concerts in the Park shows.
"I enjoy the feedback I receive. The level of interest is sustained and people come out to check out the shows," Crenshaw said.
Building a career
Born in Michigan, Crenshaw was playing guitar by the time he was 10, with his little brother Robert banging away on the drums. Throughout his youth, he said he was influenced by '50s rock and '60s AM radio. He even played in various oldies bands as a teenager.
In the mid-'70s Crenshaw responded to an ad in the back of a magazine for open auditions for the role of John Lennon in the popular Beatles tribute band Beatlemania. He sent a demo and soon after moved to New York to join the group. A movie titled Beatlemania was made in 1981, but Crenshaw was not a part of it.
"Whenever people stop me and say they recognize me, I ask them if they remember me from [the band] Beatlemania. A lot of people say they don't," Crenshaw said, laughing.
By the late-'70s, after a couple of years on the road as "John," Crenshaw settled in New York City to pursue a solo career full time. He played around town with his brother in a rockabilly band and had some relative success with his first single "Something's Gonna Happen."
The band evolved and were seen by music scouts from Warner Bros. The company signed them. Crenshaw's self-titled debut was released in 1982 to critical acclaim.
According to Crenshaw, the album was heavily influenced by the music of Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. It featured the catchy single "Someday Someway," which made into Billboard's Top 50 singles chart.
The mid-'80s brought Crenshaw much success with his albums Field Day and Downtown. His notoriety led him to acting, with small performances in the 1986 film Peggy Sue Got Married. A year later he portrayed Buddy Holly in 1987's La Bamba. Crenshaw continued recording and in '87 he released Mary Jean and 9 Others, but his ensuing records failed to create much commercial excitement, despite his praise from critics. He was dropped by Warner Bros. in '89 for MCA, who released Life's Too Short.
After working with various artists like the Gin Blossoms, Crenshaw signed with Razor & Tie. The indie label released a half-dozen records, including the live album Live...My Truck Is My Home.
"Marshall is a timeless musician who always has a great story to tell on stage," said The Guitar Bar's James Mastro, co-sponsor of Crenshaw's next Hoboken date. "His new album is a gem and he is passionate about performing again."
In addition to Bag, Razor & Tie will also release a DVD of a show he did in Asbury Park last year.
"I just consider myself lucky that I have an outlet for my creativity," Crenshaw said. "At this Hoboken show people will get to see me and my guitar playing lots of great music."
Crenshaw's July 24 show will be held at Sinatra Park in Hoboken at 7 p.m. The event is sponsored by this publication and The Guitar Bar at 160 First St. in Hoboken. For information on the show call (201) 420-2207 or visit www.marshallcrenshaw.com. q