Peter Lewis: The Road to Zion
When they first burst onto the San Francisco scene in 1966, Moby Grape was different from all of the others that shared the stages of the city’s ballrooms. Their airtight three-guitar frontline (not unlike that of LA’s Buffalo Springfield) was all business. They knew the redemptive value of structure, dynamics and seamless interplay; extended jamming was beside the point. Peter Lewis was one of those three and, although the Grape’s life was turned into a living hell in those early days by an unscrupulous manager, robbed of so much potential, he has persevered throughout every incarnation of the band. The Road to Zion is only Lewis’ third solo album and, while it doesn’t attempt to mimic the Grape’s sound or approach, it bears the same honesty and directness that marked that band’s first few albums. These are the songs of a more seasoned artist, to be sure, but their storylines and concerns are universal. Beyond all that, though, it’s the music’s instant hominess—a nebulous but comforting familiarity— that makes The Road to Zion feel so welcoming. On songs like the title track and “A Song for Kris (This Memory),” the guitars swirl and the melodies uplift. They’re simple, no-frills productions—no need for superfluous puffery—while “Nobody’s Love,” co-written with the Grape’s Jerry Miller, and the driving “Journey to the Crossroads” channel the hypnotic allure of the band’s best work. Lewis’ accompanists, particularly drummer Brian Delaney, are always in the pocket, understanding innately what these songs need to be fully realized, but there’s never any question who is calling all the shots.