Radio A Sessions: Getting Sentimental With Larry Elefante

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I get sentimental about places

About people 

Not so much

These are the opening lines of the aptly titled I Get Sentimental, the debut full-length album by Larry Elefante, the moniker for former Athenian, lifelong musician, and all around goofy-and-artistically-inclined-guy Michael L. Rutushin’s musical endeavors.

“I can only be serious for seven minutes at a time,” Michael Rutushin jokes during the recording of this session — which features a smattering of all-star regional musicians: Aaron Michael Butler on precisely executed percussion, Josh Wicker on groovy, undulating bass, Jeremy Schaffer on colorful, often deeply rhythmic keys, Nick Dzuban on meaty guitar, Julia Martin with ethereal background vocals, and Rutushin himself on guitar and lead vocals.

Rutushin was visiting his parent’s home in Youngstown, OH in 2017 when he came across a pink, brown, and orange-hued ’70s splatter print photo album. Inside was a stunningly dynamic picture of his mother, whose image had been captured in Polaroid by a camera salesman she was gabbing it up with.

“That ought to be an album cover!” the former Athenian, life-long musician, and frequent Athens-visitor thought. “That ought to be my album cover!”

The photo album that started it all! (

So was born I Get Sentimental — an emotionally audacious foray into the shimmering, hot bath water of nostalgia.

The opening and eponymous track schlepps into frame, setting up Rutushin’s vocals as sort of a greek chorus through the album; the chorus offhandedly reminding the listener that this record isn’t about looking back with rosy tinted spectacles — in fact, it may be more about ripping the spectacles off completely because it didn’t seem like they were helping us see, anyway. And things are a bit more interesting when they swirl into each other, Impressionist style.

It is of that blurriness, at least partially, that the record itself was inspired. On the page for the Kickstarter campaign that made the album a reality, Rutushin writes about meeting legendary producer (and Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies faculty) Eddie Ashworth, a man who unknowingly crafted the soundtrack to much of Rutushin’s teenage debauchery through his work on a wide variety of popular records that touched Rutushin’s youth. They spoke primarily at (sometimes) blurry jazz nights at Tony’s, which eventually led to Ashworth offering to record Rutushin in his own space, the hallowed Oxide Shed.

Thanks to Rutushin’s long musical history, he was able to nab some top-notch players for the album, and for the initial 12-hour marathon session that yielded seven initial tracks for the project. From there, Ashworth and Rutushin needed to flesh out the record, which entailed nabbing musicians “from Brooklyn to Tel Aviv,” in Rutushin’s own words.

After the opening eponymous track, I Get Sentimental gets going with the driving beat of “One Foot in the Mud,” an abstracted tale told initially by a “drunk young man in a wrinkled old shirt,” which quickly transforms into a shot focusing on a frustrated woman trotting down a street in a polka dot dress to a kaleidoscopic guitar-driven groove on time and place — especially when things get blurry late at night.

Sex and food might be the chief metaphysical fabric from which our experiences are cut, and these are topics that Rutushin plays around with liberally on the album. “Real Cool” is the penultimate moment in which Rutushin sonically illustrates such corporeal desires — from images of frying eggs to buttered bread and pork-that’s-on-the-fork — it’s a satisfying listen. Two seething guitar solos push the listener through the dense, pulsating body of the track. “Once I Was” is another artful testament to human appetites of all kinds — a simmering one that doesn’t mind taking its time.

I Get Sentimental ups the ante as a listener makes their way through it — starting out relatively low frills and eventually spilling over with chromatic horn flourishes and increasingly complex vocal arrangements, coming to a climax on the final track — “The Long Way,” which falls apart in much the same way the opening track knit itself together.

Larry Elephante will perform as a part of a Fat Tuesday celebration at Jackie O’s (22 West Union Street, Athens) on Tuesday, March 5, and “I Get Sentimental” will enjoy two album release shows — one on Friday, March 8 at Casa Nueva (6 West State Street, Athens) and one on Saturday, March 16 at Westside Bowl (2617 Mahoning Avenue, Youngstown, OH).