“Sometimes the middle / is better than no place at all,” croons Alan Zreczny — under the moniker bluefront — on the thought-provoking track “For Jonathan, Without You,” and it’s a line that could apply to his own dichotomy as a former lawyer and current business owner by day and a evocative troubadour on nights and weekends.
Armed with a deft display of poetic language and guitar skills that would rival the likes of Tim Reynolds or Dave Matthews, Zreczny is a force to be reckoned with, draping innovative chords and strumming with narrative poems that can swell from breathy intimacy to epic grandeur, often within the same tune. On 2014’s The Arbor Sessions EP, “This Picture” coasts on a mild psychedelic vibe, while “It’s Not Over Yet” has a breakneck velocity, almost echoing some hidden punk roots.
bluefront doesn’t pit Zreczny alone. “I’ve been fortunate to join forces with an amazing musician, Jason Steele,” he mentions. “In addition to being just a great friend and person he brings a musicality to the songs that fill in and surround them. It’s really nothing I could have imagined and I remember the first time we started incorporating him in the tunes. It was like they were all new again. He is such a great musician and always seems to add just the right thing. One of my favorite things is to show him a new tune and then just sit back and listen to what he creates for the song.”
On cuts like “Gone,” the two meld their rhythms and leads seamlessly over a mid-tempo ache, as Zreczny mourns, “It’s not true / and it’s not you / Just a dress that you put on.” There’s a beauty and a mystery in that line that evoke the songwriter’s sensual side, while also making clear that he wishes for the antagonist’s return. Elsewhere, “Again” crawls at a dirge pace, adding a sense of dread to lines about feeling “alone in a crowd” or other cries of loneliness. Midway through, Steele’s guitar gives a jazzy, improv-based, treble-heavy solo before it eventually becomes a buzz-saw near the songs end.
Outside of music, Zreczny has previously practiced law and currently runs his family-owned business which began back in 1967. “I always felt like I should be writing songs. Maybe it’s more like I had it in me somewhere — not knowing what it would sound like of course — but for reasons that are probably a mixture of being busy with school and trying to have a legal career, or just fear, I didn’t,” says Zreczny. He eventually did become inspired to pursue music, and us listeners are reaping all the benefits. This is a talented individual giving the Chicago music scene a look at someone who gives his career and his music equal passion. He may be riding the middle between the two, but again — that’s a much better place to be in than being no place at all.
bluefront will perform at Uncommon Ground’s Lakeview location later this month. Details are linked here.