PITTSBURGH — As acknowledged in the title track of his new album, Joe Grushecky has seen more yesterdays than he will tomorrows.
Though the Pittsburgh rock stalwart understands it’s what he does today that matters most, like his release of a sterling new album to be celebrated with a Saturday performance at the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square.
It’s his 20th album since his 1979 debut, and Grushecky said about it: “I’ve written some of the best songs I’ve done in awhile.”
People who buy tickets in advance for the 8 p.m. Hard Rock show will receive a free copy of “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows.”
He made the record with his trusty band the Houserockers, because, well, “it’s what I do,” the 69-year-old rocker said. “I get a batch of songs together and put out an album.”
“More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows” brims with all the savory ingredients Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers fans have come to expect, such as blue-collar anthems (“Got to Go to Work Today”), age-appropriate wisdom (“Work in Progress”), feisty social/political commentary (“Burn Us Down,” “Hell to Pay”), a Bruce Springsteen guest appearance (The Boss’ spirited vocals on “That’s What Makes Us Great”), and an ode to rocking while keeping it real (“Blood, Sweat & Beers”).
Grushecky credits his son and fellow Houserocker Johnny Grushecky for giving pointed criticism that motivated him to reach deeper and higher.
“I started writing a blues cover album and my son said, ‘I expected more out of you,’” Joe Grushecky said.
The philosophical but not-too-heavy “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows” title track emanated from an off-the-cuff remark Grushecky made to someone, though he can’t remember who.
It’s the album’s lead-off track, but before listeners can get too meditative on its life-is-short message, Grushecky and the Houserockers whomp them over the head with the purposeful reminder of “Got To Go To Work Today.” It’s a sentiment he comes to sincerely as a longtime special education teacher in the Sto-Rox School District.
Believing every record, like a good book, needs a definitive beginning, middle and ending, Grushecky ends the album with the defiant “Ain’t No Grave” and the somber “Don’t Mourn for Me Like That” inspired by the many notable rockers and friends who passed away in recent years.
A standout in the middle is the Springsteen-featured political protest song, “That’s What Makes Us Great,” which already earned national attention last April when released as a single. CBS News, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Spin, Paste, Time, Consequence of Sound and major newspapers described it as an “anti-Trump” song. Grushecky said his lyrical inspiration came when the future President-elect was accused of mocking a reporter with a disability. Grushecky finished the lyrics after the inauguration, sending a rough draft to his buddy and former Grammy Award-winning collaborator Springsteen, who added his own vocal flair.
Though you wouldn’t call it a protest album, two other album tracks bristle with indignation at what our country’s leaders are doing. Grushecky calls it his “state of disunion” address, and said he didn’t have to sell his bandmates on releasing an album with politically-charged moments.
“Everybody knows me by now,” he said.
And they know he still lives for rock ‘n’ roll, as laid out in the raucous “Blood, Sweat & Beers,” which would have fit in with a vintage Grushecky album like “Blood on The Bricks” or “Rock and Real.” It’s a song about late nights and drinking. “The life you choose when you’re in a band,” he said Monday in a phone interview. “On that song we released our inner Foghat.
“It’s a great guitar record,” he said.
Danny Gochnour and the two Grusheckys provide guitar, while the Houserockers’ record producer and fellow guitar ace Rick Witkowski is a frequent stage guest, too. Drummer Jeffrey “Joffo” Simmons, a Houserocker since 1984, keeps pounding the beat, though co-founding bassist Art Nardini hasn’t returned to the lineup since suffering serious injuries in an accident last April. The bassist now is Jeff Garrison.
“We’ve had to retool and have stripped down some,” Grushecky said.
The Hard Rock show will feature six or seven of the new songs, plus Grushecky and The Houserockers classics like “Pumping Iron.”
Grushecky picked one of Pittsburgh’s top indie-rock bands, Meeting of Important People, to open the show.
Grushecky has been doing album/CD/record release shows for decades, “though we’re trying to make this one a little extra special,” he said. “It’s one of our best works ever. A landmark record for us.”
If you go
What: Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers CD release show
Where: Hard Rock Cafe, Station Square, Pittsburgh
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: standing room only, $15 in advance (includes new CD); $20 at the door. VIP ticket packages including two table seats and autographed CDs/posters, start at $50