A decade in the making, Maryland songwriter Justin Shapiro is releasing his debut solo album, Campfire Party. Backed by bassist/guitarist Derick Wiggins and drummer Dave Chaeltzky, Shapiro has put together an 11 track album of jaunty alt-rock tracks that bring to mind the days when CDs ruled the music industry, the president involved in a sex scandal was a Democrat and the Dave Matthews Band was on top of the charts. The wars we were fighting were in tiny nations abroad and 9/11 was still inconceivable. Grunge had exploded in a fiery blaze and the remnants of the old guard split themselves into factions of nu-metal and the nebulous “alternative”. We were in limbo, waiting for 2000 to hit but knowing that it would change very little. The future still hadn't arrived for us.

The album kicks off with 'Lost in Time' which features slap and pop bass syncing with care-free drums and happy-go-lucky guitar. Shapiro's delivery is matter-of-fact, at times forcing the rhythm into the measure. Shapiro explores his nostalgia for meeting the one and how the good times transcend time. The song has the feel of goin' down to the watering hole in the heat of the summer with the gang. Long days and warm nights.

Shapiro keeps it light with 'Tyrannosaurus Rex'. He gets himself tongue-tied in the verses giving a semi-coherent rant on modern day-to-day problems which then leads to the odd metaphor “If I lived in prehistoric times/I would be a Tyrannosaurus Rex”. It's best not to look too hard into the theme, just leave it as a jaunty, light number. 'Inspiration Nation' brings out some snarl with a little pointed attack on political self-righteousness and divisiveness. The song is a call for inspiration over vitriol. The guitars get given a little grit with this 90s alt-rocker. Shapiro ends the album with the title track, an ode to the magic moments you can share around the campfire. A slow groovin' weekend tune.

Justin Shapiro's Campfire Party sums up a certain time and place where time stands still and the day-to-day worries are left behind. Some songs hit and some songs miss with some messy vocal passages. Could be a tighter album if a few of the weaker tracks were left off.

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