By Martine Ehrenclou
As soon as I heard For Work or Love by The Commonheart, I raced to the band’s website to see if they were performing in my city. That’s how good they are. Not a soul band, they are a rocking band with soul. The Commonheart’s new album For Work or Love is 10 tracks of jet-powered soul, blues and rock & roll with exquisite musicianship and a vocalist to beat all vocalists, the dynamic Clinton Clegg.
Get ready to be moved.
Out September 16th on Jullian Records, For Work or Love by The Commonheart is a gem, right down to the poetic and meaningful lyrics about loss, love and everything in between. Produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, who the band toured with in 2017, the album is flush with jump-out-of-your-seat funky numbers, moving ballads and rock & roll soul. Their message is uplifting, their songs well-crafted, their lyrics honest.
The Commonheart is the real deal.
Based in Pittsburgh, the eight-member band released their first album Grown in 2016, and their 2019 follow-up Pressure. With acclaimed albums and their live shows catching fire, the Covid-19 pandemic hit and it was nearly impossible to play together safely as such a large band. Frontman, vocalist and songwriter Clegg transformed his discomfort and anger with the pandemic’s challenges into songs rooted in love for family and friends, which reinvigorated his spirit. The result is For Work or Love.
The restorative power of music rings true in album opener, “How Do I Do This,” a syncopated tune with a heck of a drummer (Cole Insko), luscious horns (Abby Gross-saxophone, Nate Insko-trumpet), Lucas Bowman on keyboards, Anton DeFade on bass and Mike Minda on guitar. An anthem of sorts about losing a loved one with a sure-fire hook, it’s a rip-roaring track with heart and soul. When Clegg sings, you believe him.
With hints of Otis Redding, “Trying To Get Over” is a soul tune with plenty of groove. A modern twist sets it apart from old school soul, perhaps in part because of stellar guitar by Minda who has such tone and feel, you’d swear Billy F Gibbons was somewhere nearby. Get yourself to the dance floor on this one.
Clever songwriting abounds on “Hustler,” a modern funky tune with grit. Through the eyes of a hustler, Clegg throws it down on this track, digging deep on lines like “I’m a hustler baby, and I want you to know, hard times is coming.” He channels a young Joe Cocker with a dash of James Brown, but with his own signature style. Clegg’s vocal phrasing is spot on. The band just rips on this tune, including the horns, which are an integral part of the song and they riff like guitars. The backing singers too; all top-tier professionals. By the time the guitar rolls in, you’re prepared for more greatness, and you get it with Minda. A tremendous guitar solo that blends perfectly with the tune.
“Lonely King” ushers in a soulful ballad with spare piano. Beautiful in its simplicity, it’s Clegg who moves you with his vocals. With trumpet complimenting the melody, Clegg promises “You better believe I’m coming up, there’s no way I’m leaving you, I will never give up on you.” Some love songs are sappy—not this one. It’s authentic and real.
The band stands for honesty and integrity, grounded in love. We need more of that in our world.
Stunning ballad “Far Enough” sees Clegg singing solo over acoustic guitar and subtle piano. Almost a singer-songwriter tune, the song is gripping in its stillness. The backing singers come in with a gospel refrain and harmony “Have mercy.”
More insightful storytelling surfaces in “Josephine” and others on the record. Album closer “Pick Up My Head” promises a rock and roll crowd pleaser with a killer horn section and the riveting Clegg at the helm.
A feel-good album with meaningful songs? You bet. But The Commonheart goes far beyond simply uplifting music with For Work or Love. Their songs shine a strong beam of light into the darkness.
Pre-order link for For Work Or Love Here
Watch “Trying To Get Over”