One year after releasing The Coronavirus Sessions, George Mann returns with his new album A World Like This, featuring 11 songs and the core of Ithaca, NY musicians featured on his last two albums. With seven new original songs, three covers, and an old song George wrote for his former singing partner, Julius Margolin (“The Ballad of Julie M.”), this is a tightly woven collection with many songs focusing on the long pandemic and its effects. The album moves quickly through the optimism of “Let the Healing Begin” to the harsher realities of our situation (the title track and “Maybe Next Year”). “We Only Turn Right Around Here” tells the story of a mythical town in Georgia that banned left-hand turns after the election, and “I Don’t Miss What’s-His-Name at All” is a bouncy, jazzy number that George hopes will be the last song he ever writes about you-know-who.
George enjoyed writing for and playing with the four musicians at the core of this album. Bassist Doug Robinson and drummer Michael Wellen have played on every solo album George has produced in the last decade. Guitarist Rich DePaolo came in two albums ago and has set the band on fire with his versatility and soaring solos. Rich sings harmonies with Mary Brett Lorson, of the band Madder Rose, on ten songs. The result is a wonderful blend of the three voices. Molly Macmillan contributes keyboards on several songs and harmonies to the closing “The Last Song,” in which George namechecks the last songs of some legendary singers, wondering what might be beyond this album.
A World Like This was recorded and mixed between March and August 2021, one year after, and in much the same environment, as The Coronavirus Sessions at Will Russell’s lovely old church, Electric Wilburland Studios, just outside Ithaca. The full band appears on six songs, while five songs are acoustic, including covers of “Long Black Veil” and Si Kahn’s powerful “They All Sang Bead and Roses.” This album was released in late October 2021, as the pandemic raged on. Touring plans are uncertain, but George hopes to be booking and performing at festivals and folk clubs on both coasts and Australia in 2022!
1. Let the Healing Begin: The nation came close to falling apart on January 6, but on January 20, we began the long, slow process of healing. A certain optimism is evident in this song. Acoustic with some nice slide guitar by Rich DePaolo.
2. A Cross and a Beer: The first song George wrote for this album. The pressures on a young person can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you don’t feel like you fit in. This story happens all too often, even now. A melodic song with the full band.
3. We Only Turn Right Around Here: The backwards thinking still prevalent in much of the south comes out in this catchy singalong about the town in Georgia that banned left-hand turns (look it up!). Reactionary Republicans are working to rig the next election in many states. They long to “go back” to the days when only the “right” people voted.
4. Long Black Veil: All acoustic, this classic song features Rich DePaolo and Mary Brett Lorson on harmonies, Doug Robinson on upright bass, Sally Taylor on violin, and Molly MacMillan on organ. A homage to The Band and a spirited version recorded in the first sessions for this album.
5. A World Like This: Written in March during a particularly bleak time in the pandemic, this is one of the most catchy and powerful songs on the album. A country/Americana vibe and sad, mournful melody at the core of this song. Rich DePaolo and Mary Brett Lorson carry the harmonies and Rich lays down some heavy slide guitar.
6. Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye: An update of the Eddie Arnold hit with some good old-fashioned doo-wop and a soulful guitar solo at the end by Rich DePaolo. The perfect antidote to a world like this…
7. The Ballad of Julie M.: George wrote this back in 1998, at the beginning of his long musical partnership with Julius Margolin, a union activist since the 1930s. This powerful acoustic song tells Julius’s story, with some lovely ebow by Rich and harmonies from Rich and Mary.
8. Maybe Next Year: So much disappointment, so many cancelled or postponed plans, so many relationships on hold or forever changed. The legacy of this pandemic is spotlighted in this beautiful song of indecision, longing and loss.
9. They All Sang Bread and Roses: Si Kahn has a gift for writing powerful, focused songs that put you “in the room” at many of our important struggles. This is one of George’s favorites and Rich and Mary add beautiful harmonies to it.
10. I Don’t Miss What’s-His-Name at All: A bouncy jazz quartet swings throughout this song with some sweet harmonies and a few last shots at the departed (for now) former president. Doug Robinson shines on guitars and bass and takes the lead vocal in the second half of the song. Sing it with a smile!
11. Healing Waters: A short sequence of running water to quiet the soul.
12. The Last Song: A soft landing to end the album, George namechecks some of our most beloved artists and their last songs… and leaves you wondering what’s next. Molly MacMillan on keyboards and harmonies from Molly and Rich DePaolo.