Phoenix Project, a Connecticut-based roots and country-oriented band that plays music that sounds as though it has come from the pages of music history. Phoenix Project’s debut recording, “Play It Twice,” is an engaging album. The sound of Phoenix Project’s music, plus the allusions made in their lyrics at times, gives listeners a little extra to be intrigued by.
While Phoenix Project will likely remind listeners of other artists with bigger names and similar sounds, they remain unique. The songs on “Play It Twice” are homespun stories that sound as though they have grown out of places more “country” than Connecticut. Stereotypes aside, the recording surprises with its confident, lived-in sound. One song not to miss on the album is “(I Put My) Hand in the Fire.”
About Phoenix Project
The group is comprised of Robin Lyn Treger on lead vocals; Tim McDonald on background vocals and guitar; Steve Starger on piano; Dave Stoltz on bass; Don Fitch on drums; Tom Majesky on guitar and Bob Hennessey on harmonica.
Phoenix Project is labeled as Americana/blues/rock. And all of those genres are represented on the debut. However, the sound, especially those songs that are more roots and Americana-based, might sound country to some audiences. The group formed in 2017.
The events that set Phoenix Rising into motion involve a jazz festival where Treger and Starger reconnected after 20 years. Treger was performing. Her longtime photographer shared a table with Starger, and remarked that Treger was like a phoenix who kept rising. The tragedy that Treger had arisen from was a bout with cancer. Having defeated the malady, she continued her musical career. Treger had already released her album of jazz standards called “Seasons.” She and Starger began writing songs together. The songs they wrote spanned a range of genres: Americana, country, rock, blues, r&b, New Orleans and Appalachian.
Both Treger and Starger have musical careers that span decades. Starger’s dates back to the 1960s and Treger from the 1970s. Starger played in a psychedelic rock band that put out a single during the Summer of Love. In the 1970s, Starger co-founded Sun Ship. In 1974, the band released an album and went on tour with bands like Steely Dan, Rick Nelson, Hot Tuna and others.
Treger was born in New York City and raised in Connecticut. She began performing in the 1970s in Texas where she earned a loyal fanbase.
“(I Put My) Hand in the Fire” by Phoenix Project
The musical roots are deep on this one. The song pays homage to Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Sun House. The lyrics detail a meeting with the soul of Johnson and refers to his alleged soul-selling. There is a touch of gothic in the song. A rollicking bluesy soundtrack keeps the lyrics moving. Treger’s voice is earthy and expressive. There are strains of Bonnie Raitt and Melissa Etheridge in Treger’s voice. She has the sound of a song-based storyteller and keeps listeners paying attention. That is how they learn every word of the song.
“Play It Twice” could be a directive for how to interact with the album. The recording is only four songs long, and that does not seem like enough, and thus, another listen is in order. Project Phoenix sounds like the professionals they are, ones with decades of experience. “Play It Twice” is a tidy little album with all original songs that pay homage while creating something new at once.