They don’t make ‘em like John Vento anymore. Rugged on the outside and a raw but sensitive soul on the inside – Vento’s new song “America (The Saints Come Marching Home)” expresses the emotions of a proud American poet disheartened that civil unrest and a divided camp is where we’ve arrived at in the United States of America. Channeling the ghosts of our nation’s fathers as well as the sacred elders of the Native American tribes, listeners will be transfixed by the rock rhythms and folk textures.
One of the words that kept coming back to me while listening to this song is the word ‘stoic.’ I think when you listen to a song like this, albeit protest or folk lore, there is a tendency to create an image of a man wanting the world to head his call. There he stands on the steps to the capital or some important building strumming his guitar and his heart out, hoping the wind takes his message. Vento expands upon that image, and alongside the precision-level classic rock guitar sounds, he injects a flute and battle-drawn percussion.
The saints come marching home, the holy ghost is on his knees, crushed by sticks and stones, Vento sings in his weathered voice. His words tattoo themselves to your brain like the faded ink from Vietnam veterans. He sings with the force of a thousand wild horses, and the rumbling percussion makes you take a second glance to see if such a scene is following you. The movement in this song is fierce. Fans of the classic rock genre, especially Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) and Humble Pie will appreciate the guitar work. Vento, the singer, he’s not rushed. He’s not messing around – he’s angry. He’s tamed his anger. He’s pleading for rationale. Perhaps, too, he’s wanting divine intervention.
Roots music fans, too, will be excited to hear Vento. Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his steel-exterior softens will you immediately sense the kiln containing despair, sense of history and pride. Like any great artist, he’s interpreting the unrest in his own unique way, but there is definitely a silver-lining to this all. One thing that really creates that sense of hope and light is a backing female vocalist. I have to wonder if she symbolizes Lady Liberty herself. She’s melodic and a beacon of light. Or maybe she represents a modern Rosie The Riveter and glows in her own way.
“America (The Saints Come Marching Home)” is a game changer for Vento. But it’s worth noting that he’s been changing the rock/ roots landscape for some time. Besides fronting the bands The Businessmen and Nied’s Hotel Band, he released Love, Lust & Other Wreckage in 2018. Among his most popular streamed-songs on Spotify are “Well Yeah Maybe” and “Rainbows & Lightning”. He’s also racking up streams on the spoken-word track “Vices”. Vento is a January 2019 Billboard Magazine Emerging Artist and a Communitas Award Winner for his work with non-profit, Band Together Pittsburgh.