Gillen & Turk: Backs to the Wall

In the tradition of Batdorf & Rodney, England Dan & John Ford Coley and Seals & Crofts these two fine songwriter/singers, Matt Turk and Fred Gillen Jr. bring their blend of Americana, folk rock and solid instrumentation to this CD episode they call Backs To The Wall. “Fall Down” has the jangling R.E.M. style that makes it highly commercial, a total contrast to the almost off-key “Takes Me Away”, almost five minutes of Velvet Underground-third album melancholy. “It Really Matters” is culled from The Grateful Dead catalog and makes the duo a perfect fit to perform in the Boston area with one of Ken Selcer’s many bands.

“Black Hills” and “Come Away With Me” have mesmerizing sounds and riveting themes…”Black Hills” right out of the C.S.N.Y. repertoire when they were stomping with “Almost Cut My Hair” and “Ohio”. Real protest music. The musicianship is strong, just as you’d expect from journeyman Turk. The addition of Fred (Gillen Jr) gives Matt an opportunity to stretch out from his own solo pop to a harder-edged sometimes anst-filled style (“Come Away With Me” comes to mind in that regard). “These Nameless Streets” would be fine for a Jack Kerouac flick…or if some filmmaker wants to take the Route 66 TV series from the 1960s to the big screen.

“Three” is innovative and has mandolin-like sounds with charging guitar…political issues…think George Harrison’s “Within Without You” going for a wider audience. “Killing Machine” also has the R.E.M. jangle combined with protest lyrics while “This Town Is Our Song” feels like a low-key response to Simon & Garfunkel’s “My Little Town”, though not as maudlin yet still very melancholy (did I use that word already). A strong effort from some spirited musicians worth your listening time.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for, and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.