‘Ten Years to Home: Ken Stringfellow Imagines Puleo’ Offers a Masterclass in Pop Songwriting (ALBUM REVIEW)

Joe Puleo isn’t your typical songwriter. When he was young, he was an athlete who competed in wrestling and triathlons, among other endeavors. After that, he started running companies in both New Jersey and Philadelphia. He is also the author of the book Running Anatomy

Inspired by the story of Gabriele Gruenwald a track star who died of cancer, Puleo wrote the lyrics for “Not Today”. He sent those lyrics to Ken Stringfellow as a text file. Stringfellow proceeded to write a song that made Puleo cry. Thus was an unlikely songwriting duo created. The result is the EP Ten Years to Home: Ken Stringfellow Imagines Puleo that includes five songs in which Puleo wrote the lyrics and Stringfellow wrote the music.

“Overcoming Gravity” is the first track on the album. According to Puleo, it is the result of a challenge between a musician friend that involved writing a song before the friend was done painting Puleo’s kitchen. Puleo finished a song while his friend did not. The song features a jangly guitar part that would have made it a college-rock hit in the 90s. It is a shining example of a pop-rock song with lyrics that you can’t help but sing.

“The Strongest Man” is a study in fluctuation. Parts of the song are bouncy to the point that they could be used as the theme for an 80s sitcom. But the chorus is somewhat dramatic with sustained and distorted guitar sounds. And then there are the lyrics like, “I don’t look like him with his barbed-wire tattoos” that show you the true meaning of the song.

Each song on this EP offers something different. “Measured in Threes” is a piano ballad reminiscent of David Gray that comes across as a lesson in vocabulary. After all, how many songs do you know that use the word redolent and vermilion? Apart from that, it is just a beautifully crafted song.

The final song “Not Today” is the only song Puleo planned to write with Stringfellow. It is a tribute to a woman who died of cancer. With the swirling guitar and jangly melody, this one feels like it could have been a song by The Posies. 

Ten Years to Home: Ken Stringfellow Imagines Puleo could be used as a master class in songwriting, Puleo’s lyrics are evocative and Stringfellow managed to come up with the perfect melodies for the lyrics he was sent. While a pandemic brought the two together, and we wouldn’t wish for another one of those, we can certainly wish for further collaborations between these two songwriters.

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