Bob Malone Photo by Bob DeMarco

Once again, Mike Farley’s turned me on to a songwriter, composer, live performer, top-notch instrumentalist, session musician named Bob Malone. Mike sent over a copy of Malone’s newest release titled “Good People” with a note stating that “I think you’re gonna like this one!” When Mike’s right, he’s right. The 11 tracks feature eight original songs and three covers all powered by Malone’s immense talent on not only keyboards but also highly emotive vocals. In the news release, Malone states that he used this project to explore “the loss, burnout, alienation, existential dread and fleeting moments of hopefulness I happened to be going through, in spite of the carefully curated self I presented to the world on social media. Nothing new, of course, but in 2020 those feelings suddenly became more universal than they’d ever been in my lifetime.” Needless to say, I wanted to talk with this musician first hand, and so an interview was arranged on April 26. When I called him he said …

Malone: I saw Bridgton, Maine on (my caller ID) … and I figured it was you.

Q: Yeah, it was. Speaking of Maine, that there’s a Maine connection with you?
Malone: Yeah, my parents are from Maine — Cornish and Kezar Falls. I don’t think Kezar Falls is a town anymore; I think it’s Porter now. So they’re from there, and all my relatives are from Maine. I used to spend most summers up there, and Christmas was always in Maine with the grandparents. My parents left Maine in 1960 before I came along. I was born in New Jersey, so that’s where I’m from.

Q: Well, that’s close, a lot closer than you are now, which is?
Malone: L.A.

Q: Not Lewiston-Auburn, I’m sure (chuckle).
Malone: (Laughter) No, not Lewiston-Auburn and not Lower Alabama, either (more laughter)!

Q: Right you are. Now, about your album “Good People.” I loved it, and the covers you did, man, you made them your own, for sure.
Malone: Yeah, that’s definitely my goal. I don’t really see the point in doing a cover song just like it’s been done, especially the really great songs like those by guys who have really recorded them already.

Q: Well, you’re take on Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” breathed new life and energy into it, but the one that blew me away was “Oh Well” by Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, speaking about energy.
Malone: (Chuckle) I’ve loved that song for years, since I was in high school when I heard it. It’s such a guitar song that I’m like, “I don’t know if I can play that, but I really wish I could play it!” I finally stopped just thinking about it, and I sat down and tried to do it. I transcribed the whole thing and figured out how to play it on piano. It was almost like learning a classical piece. I spent some time on it. I was really excited when I could actually pull it off, so I recorded it (laughter).

Q: Now, what number album is this one, your first?
Malone: It’s the 10th one.

Q: Tenth one?! Good Lord, man, OK.
Malone: (Laughter) Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. The first one was in ’96.

Q: Do they all follow along these lines?
Malone: Yeah, I mean the earlier ones are probably a lot more kind of roots-y and blues-y than this one is, but they’ve all evolved from kind of a similar place, yeah.

Q: Now, when was “Good People” released?
Malone: It hasn’t come out yet. May 21st is when it comes out.

Q: So this column will be a preview cleverly disguised as a review.
Malone: (Chuckle) Yeah, this coming month is when we hope people will be writing about it.

Q: You can count on it from my end, for sure. I’ve been doing this since 1969, by the way.
Malone: Oh, wow! Then those songs I covered you heard when they were new.

Q: Damn right.
Malone: … Yeah, I’m a Gen Xer, you know, and I heard all these songs in the ’80s for the first time (laughter).

Q: Do you do covers frequently or was this CD a one-off?
Malone: Every album I make there’s usually one or two cover songs that that I really mess with, and I sprinkle them throughout my set.

Q: Speaking of sets, have you performed up in Maine before?
Malone: Yeah. Solo, I haven’t played there in a while; maybe five or six years ago was the last time I played in Portland. In 2019 I played with John in Westbrook at Rock Row, Maine Savings Pavilion. It’s a pretty new venue; it’s one of those big outdoor venues.

Q: Now when you say, John, John who?
Malone: John Fogerty. I’ve been in his band for 10 years. I tour solo and I tour with him, and in 2019 was the last time we played anywhere.

Q: Just out of curiosity, what are his thoughts on your cover of his “Bad Moon Rising” on this CD?
Malone: He hasn’t really heard it yet (chuckle). And, you know, I’m kind of terrified.

Q: Well, in my opinion he’ll give you a tip of his hat instead of a tongue-lashing, because your version is very well done. I know I’ve been carrying on about your three covers, but I enjoy your eight originals equally. You really mix it up lyrically, rhythmically and stylistically; it’s that variety that makes an album entertaining and interesting.
Malone: That’s how I am, that’s what I’ve always loved. I like a lot of different stuff, and I learned to play a lot of different kinds of stuff, so it’s hard for me to just make a record where everything is kind of the same thing, you know? And once I’ve done something, I want to try new things every time I do it; otherwise what’s the point?

Q: Over the years, my favorite artists are the ones that push the edges of their envelope and take chances.
Malone: That’s the only way to stay in. The trick is to do it without losing your audience. You have to keep moving and keep changing, but not so much that everyone goes, “Oh, I can’t figure out what he’s doing.”

Q: Do you do instrumentals, like “Preludes & Blues” on this album, on each of your CDs?
Malone: The last couple of albums I had instrumentals on them, not always, but lately I’ve been doing it. I’ve been thinking about doing an all-instrumental one. It would be an interesting thing to have, and I’ve been thinking about it.

Q: Is there anything, Bob, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article?
Malone: Well, if you send them to my website, www.bobmalone.com, they’ll see everything they need to see about me right there.

Lucky Clark has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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