Peter Wolf has some mighty big company on his new solo album, Sleepless, as his friends, and Rolling Stones, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger make guest appearances. The album is due out in August.
“We were jamming around, and we did it Chess Records style, live and a full glass,” says Wolf of the version of Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Too Close Together” that he and Richards recorded. “I had a band waiting for Keith, and it was great because the equipment arrived at four, then we heard Keith was getting in around seven, then came a call around ten, so when the man arrived, he came in and made some hellified music. Then he charmed each and everybody in the studio and then rolled out as the sun was coming up.”
Jagger sings on “Nothing but the Wheel,” and Wolf caught himself feeling equal parts fan and performer as they recorded the track. “I’m such a fan, it’s such a great feeling to witness it as it’s going down,” says Wolf. “What’s really so enjoyable is not just what you’re hearing but that you’re watching the person you admire going through the process of it.”
Wolf recorded the album at Seer Sound in New York City. Steve Earle stopped in to help sing “Some Things You Don’t Want to Know.” And, throughout the record, Wolf was backed by bassist Tony Garnier and guitarist Larry Campbell (both of Bob Dylan’s band).
“I wanted to get these session players, guys who are very talented and had a lot of taste and historical basis,” Wolf says, “and put them in a room and say, ‘Here, let’s tear apart the songs, see which ones are worth working on, slowing down, speeding up, changing keys or trying new arrangements.”
Wolf describes himself as a “late bloomer” as a songwriter and credits conversations with the late, great country songsmith Harlan Howard — the champion of the “three chords and the truth” school of songwriting — with helping him to finish the song “Growing Pain.” “I ended up at his house stretched out on some EZ Boy chair,” Wolf says, “and he and I were just chatting about songwriting and relationships, and he explained to me his perspective of keeping it simple and keeping it honest. It had a great impact on me.”
Sleepless track listing:
Nothing but the Wheel
A Lot of Good Ones Gone
Never Like This Before
Five O’Clock Angel
Run Silent, Run Deep
Too Close Together
Some Things You Don’t Want to Know