Sully Erna’s powerful sophomore album, Hometown Life
Sully Erna, also of Godsmack, proudly expressed his love for many types of music when he released his debut solo album, Avalon in 2010. Songs ranging from world music with tribal beats using bongos and djembes to piano and guitar ballads. Erna, who is very multi-instrumental, took on vocals, piano, acoustic guitar and various other instruments. Sully had said in the Avalon Live DVD (2014) is female vocalist partner, Lisa Guyer, is his musical soul mate Very spiritual songs such as “Avalon”, “Sinner’s Prayer”, and “Cast Out (Spirit Ceremony)” seemed to really pave the way for sharing the gift and love of music with others. Other songs, such as “7 Years” and “My Light” were fairly clearly addressing personal events in his life that now seem to contrast Hometown Life. “In Through Time” is a very meditative, nearly instrumental light guitar layered structure that captivates me every time. “Cast Out”, being a part-time djembe player myself, is by far a favorite. However, this album highly contrasts Hometown Life.
In September of 2016, he released his followup to Avalon titled Hometown Life. Much like he promised with the few vague details that he released about how the album sounded. Sully has stepped into yet another musical direction with an album written more about home and growing up. While Avalon found comfort in a mostly world music environment, Hometown Life roams much more around soft and classic rock with many other ingredients sneaking out. Included in his very thorough biography on SullyErna.com, he notes influences of all kinds including singer Adele, Billy Joel, and more. Where Avalon allowed him to openly establish himself as an eclectic musician and possibly concur some inner demons, Hometown Life focuses more on life itself and everything it encompasses from the past to the present and beyond.
I remember the title track, “Hometown Life”, being the first pre-release song that appeared on Spotify. It’s a masterpiece in what opening tracks for an album should do. With its very dramatic, sustained, and emotional piano opening the track, it is then joined by Erna’s vocals and soon a full band to weave in and out of the song in natural progression. While, at this point at least, it nudges much familiarity with the Avalon album, it certainly features Erna venturing and broadening out with very different vocal styles by bringing in some wonderful bluesy sway at parts. From my interpretation, it speaks of personal consistency. Something I can relate to, it suggests that one may see changes in a person while those changes are only sides that either the observer or the world hasn’t had the opportunity to see whether it be good or bad.
“And have you noticed every way I’ve changed
‘Cause to me I’ve simply stayed the same”
The second song, “Your Own Drum”, very quickly sets off any conception that this album will be similar to Avalon. It begins with very up-tempo acoustic guitar, where his bongos and vocals quite honestly underly with many Latin rhythms and styles. His vocals in this songs are also very drum as the bluesy vocal style becomes more prominent. I suppose one could say the growing vocal styles could even be enjoy a little bit of jazz. As for the song’s lyrics itself, Sully has noted that for him it seems to be some “Fatherly advice” or just simply just another part of life and advising friends, family, and just about anyone else.
“You say that you’re living in the shadows
But there’s no shadows if you don’t have light”
-“Your Own Drum”
As only a personal preference, I’m happy that “Different Kind of Tears” didn’t venture into more of a country style than I was thinking it was going to. It’s a beautiful song based around campfire-style acoustic guitar while eventually also joined with classic “old style” rock ‘n’ role guitar solos and a wonderful “everybody!” sing along that exhibits his absolute excitement and shivers when many people sing together, much that he enjoyed at the end of Avalon Live when having the audience join in closing the show with the end of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”.
“It’s a different kind of pain
Don’t act like you know this
‘Cause what you don’t see
Is buried inside of me”
-“Different Kind of Tears”
The fourth track, “Take All of Me”, pulls up a similar up-tempo composition to “Your Own Drum” and also features Lisa Guyer in a duet style rock song with piano and violins. These mixtures are something that he seems to have grown even more comfortable with this time around. While the lyrics and vocals seem to lay more in his established vocal and lyrical style, the musical composition is very eclectic.
Another of the most notably different song has got to be “Turn It Up!” which goes right down that jazzy, rhythm, blues and everything else alley. An incredibly awesome piece of information about this song is Sully’s father, Salvatore, playing trumpet wonderfully. As many fans would know, especially those who have read Sully’s book, The Paths We Choose(2007), his father had a very powerful influence on Sully’s musical evolution when he was still quite young. The song itself is a tribute to music itself and the energy it can create.
“Forever My Infinity” is another wonderfully sung duet with Lisa Guyer. The song is as captivating as quite honestly every other song on this album. Even though I am a massive fan of the sound of his debut Avalon, I am also equally stolen and mesmerized by this album even if it may be for a different atmosphere. While I noted some musical genres in this article and have mentioned many genres in other album reviews on Musicbytes, I fully applaud and agree with Sully’s quoted comment on his website:
“..A good song is a good song. I stopped categorizing a long time ago.”
If you have Amazon Prime’s Music Unlimited, you can stream Hometown Life here as well as on Spotify. Of course, I still love tangible CD’s and vinyl, which is another wonderful way to experience this exceptional album. In short, this album shows Sully Erna showing more of himself or at least really cranking up the amplification on the vast eclectic taste in music that he has always had. The songs are quite different, although for myself, the album is far more about the ups and downs of life and the desire and drive to keep moving forward and overcome anything and everything we can. It celebrates life as a gift as much as the gift of music.
- Hometown Life
- Your Own Drum
- Different Kind of Pain
- Take All of May
- Don’t Comfort Me
- Turn It Up!
- Blue Skies
- Forever My Infinity
- Father of Time
- Falling to Black
Important Sully Erna Links and Resources
- Sully Erna’s Official Website: SullyErna.com
- Sully Erna’s Official Store
- Official Site’s Tour Dates (although he wrapped up a Summer 2016 tour, no dates currently scheduled)
- Godsmack’s Official Website
- Lisa Guyer’s Music Empowerment Program