"In a better world, Joe Grushecky would live in a mansion down the road from Springsteen's. Instead, this enormous talent spends his days teaching some of western Pennsylvania's most troubled children....Who do you know who has made back-to-backgreat albums more than 20 years ago, and is doing the same thing now. There's Dylan, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Springsteen, maybe a few more. He's on that level." - Jimmy Guterman, Runaway American Dream: Listening to Bruce Springsteen
A Good Life is veteran heartland rocker Joe Grushecky's 13th album since his storied career began with Pittsburgh's Iron City Houserockers. A Good Life was produced by Joe and Rick Witkowski, recorded at Studio L in Weirton, West Virginia. It will be released by Schoolhouse Records and distributed nationally by Big Daddy Music Distribution on September 5, 2006.
A Good Life contains 13 tracks laying lives and relationships bare for all to see. The singer of these songs is comfortable with his roles as a father, husband, special education teacher, songwriter and performer who is happy with the life he's built himself. But he's still hungry for more, just as hungry as when he was barely out of his teens and walked into a studio nearly thirty years ago to record the Iron City Houserockers debut, Love's So Tough.
The album opens with a musical demolition and rebuilding project; "Code of Silence," is a song shouted in unison by Grushecky and his oft collaborator and musical brother-in-arms, Bruce Springsteen. In "Code of Silence," Joe and Bruce tear down the walls blocking communications in a relationship and bridge the gap left. "Code of Silence" was co-written by Springsteen and Grushecky and originally released as a live recording on Springsteen's 2003 Essential Collection. Singing "Code of Silence," Bruce won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance -Male in 2003.
With the walls torn down and bridges built, Grushecky takes the listener on tour of the stark images of little victories and outright failures, of moving ahead and getting nowhere, of success and its pitfalls, of relationships and the unexpected twists and turns of life. In "Is She The One," Grushecky optimistically sings of a new love before any vicissitudes of romance visit the relationship; Joe is also joined by Springsteen on guitar and vocals here. "Don't Forget Where You're Coming From" is a haunting ballad reminding someone one who seems to be lost of what is important in life. "Beauty Fades" is a ballad about what happens as a relationship ages, kids leave, beauty fades, and our star-crossed lovers are alone again in an empty nest.
The title song is an upbeat rumination on life. Joe sits back and takes stock of where his life has led him and likes what he sees. He's got two kids, a beautiful wife, and leading a good life. Bruce again lends his voice and guitar to this track as well as a searing solo in "Searching For My Soul."
Joe's first band, the Iron City Houserockers, released their debut album, Love's So Tough in 1979. In Rolling Stone, Greil Marcus wrote ?their debut album is strong, passionate and a little desperate. This is hard rock with force, but there's no macho in it..I hope they?re around for a long, long time. Rolling Stone Magazine again praised Joe?s singing and writing with the Houserockers a year later calling their follow-up effort, Have A Good Time But Get Out Alive, 'a new American classic'. Marcus, writing about the album in the Village Voice said, Have A Good Time But Get Out Alive is the sort of mainstream rock the mainstream has never been able to stomach. Within its story, rock is just another part of the landscape, a gift that turns into a cheat, a chance to escape, a means of telling the truth, and a way to feel clean when the chance fails, when the truth is revealed as nothing more than what?s obvious to everyone.? Two other Iron City Houserockers albums were released before the band split in 1983, Blood On The Bricks and Cracking Under Pressure.
With the break up of the Iron City Houserockers Grushecky returned to Pittsburgh where he took a day job as a special education teacher, a position he still holds. Joe spent the years from 1983 to 1989 honing his songwriting craft. In those years he bore witness to the demise of his beloved Steel City as he watched one mill after another shut down and take the jobs of his friends and family with them. In 1984, Grushecky released a fiery single, "Good Bye Steeltown", but it would take another five more years for him to fully re-emerge with his first solo post Houserockers album, 1989's Rock And Real which was followed with Swimming With the Sharks , both on Rounder Records, and then End Of The Century on Razor & Tie.
In 1995, Joe began his now decade-long collaboration with another hard-rocking storyteller, Bruce Springsteen. The first fruits of their labor, American Babylon, was a Grushecky cum Houserockers album produced by Springsteen featuring two co-written songs as well as guest vocal and guitar contributions; Bruce wound up doing stint as the Houserockers' lead guitarist on a tour which celebrated the album's release.
Coming Home, released in 1998, featured more collaborative compositions including "1945", a poignant ballad recounting the real life World War II experiences of Grushecky's parents. In 1999, Joe released Down The Road Apiece Live, his first live release. The live recording boasts guest appearances by his good friends on a number of tracks. In No Depression, Fred Mills praised the Houserockers for ousingly blowing through anthem after anthem and called it the kind of roots-Americana classicism that John Mellencamp can nowadays only dream of.
On Fingerprints, released in 2002, Joe explored his skills as a singer and songwriter utilizing a variety of backing musicians. This was followed with Grushecky and the Houserockers getting together again for the very autobiographical True Companion.
Like A Good Life, the three previous CDs carry the Schoolhouse Records imprint.
*Biography courtesy of School Records