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Civil Songs: Louiston digs deep on latest album

Tim Gera

Louiston – the project of Trumansburg singer-songwriter Lou DiPietro – will kick off the 2022 Newfield Music Series at Mill Park at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 29.

He’ll be joined by a full band, including drummer Chris Ploss and bassist Joey Arcuri, to play songs from his recently released album, “Civilian,” which was partially tracked at Ploss’s Sunwood Recording in Trumansburg.

DiPietro’s previous Louiston album, “Duels,” came out in 2019; he described the six-song EP as “sort of an experiment” created with the help of his drummer friend, Mike Murray, first in Newfield’s Electric Wilburland studio, and then completed at home.

“He was coming back to Ithaca in three months, and pitched doing a studio project,” he remembered in an interview earlier this year, “so I wrote some quick songs, and it turned into this really loud electric record, which doesn’t sound like anything like what I do live. Since I put that record out, I've gone back and forth on whether I should just scrub it and get rid of it, because I would imagine for anybody who's listening to the new one now it's total confusion of styles.”

For “Civilian,” he took a more intentional approach: “Let’s actually record the songs I play out all the time and give them a proper treatment,” he said. “They’re all acoustic-driven, so there’s not a single distorted guitar, just one little electric guitar part on one song. And it’s mostly acoustic bass. So it’s a way more accurate representation of what I do on stage.”

DiPietro tracked much of “Civilian” at his home at various times from late 2019 through summer 2021, with additional tracking at Sunwood Recording coming after. (Ironically, the title track is the one holdover from his sessions with Murray at Electric Wilburland.)

He credits Ploss for taking the eight songs on “Civilian” to a higher level, musically and sonically.

“On our first day in the studio I brought him the songs, and he was showing me what he could with them,” he said. “I went into this thinking only had these ingredients, and now I have all of these other ones that Chris is bringing to the table.

"He was able to do things that I can’t do instrumentally, things I could hear in my head but can’t bring to life in a meaningful and tasteful way the way he can. And then he brings this crazy engineering background, in just being able to record it all.”

Besides Ploss, who plays keyboards and/or drums on six songs, the other musicians include Arcuri on upright bass and cello, David McKinley on dobro, and Rena Guinn on harmony vocals. Ploss mixed the entire record, which was mastered by former Ithacan Dana Billings.

Many of the songs on the new album had been around for a few years, including the lead track, “Boxcars,” which is about a decade old, but the title track and “Out from Shadow” are newer songs.

“I had so many songs, I just thought, which ones are gonna work best together?” he remembered.

For lyrical inspiration, he mostly “just draws on my life stuff.”

“I'm not good at doing the projecting and trying to be like a fiction writer. I can't do that. I don't even try,” he said. “I just try to mine whatever I have going on in my own life. I try not to overthink it too much -- whatever comes is gonna come, and I'll just make sense of it and iron it out. It's like writing: just like getting your thoughts down, and reordering them into something that makes sense.”

DiPietro and his friend, videographer Tim Gera, put together a cool video for the song “Out of Shadow.”

“I went to him with this rough idea of doing a lyric video, and he came back with those visuals that were way more beautiful than I could have imagined,” DiPietro said. “That’s Tim – just give him a little bit of time, and he’ll come up with something rad. I wanted me to be dressed up like a Civil War soldier, and I wanted the other folks in the room that kind of look ashen. And he just took that idea and ran with it.”

If You Go

Who: Louiston

What: Newfield Music Series at Mill Park

When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: 222 Main St., Newfield

Cost: free

Also: Fitnell Farms BBQ Food Truck and Dennis’ Homemade Ice Cream will be on-site for the event, and organizers will be hosting an Empty Bowls Ice Cream Fundraiser at the park starting at 5 p.m. and running throughout the evening.

Event Info

Louiston website

Louiston recently released his latest album, "Civilian."
Tim Gera
Louiston recently released his latest album, "Civilian."

Jim Catalano covers the Finger Lakes music scene for WITH (90.1 FM in Ithaca, and its affiliates.