Kurt Deemer, Reclaim the Night
A longtime champion of guitar-driven rock & roll, Kurt Deemer responded to the modern moment with 2021's World Upside Down, whose songs examined the seismic changes that shook American society during Donald Trump's presidency. One year later, he looks toward the future with Reclaim the Night. It's an album about new beginnings and fresh starts, with Deemer — who pulls triple-duty as Reclaim the Night's frontman, songwriter, and producer — embracing his solo artistry after an acclaimed run as frontman of The Kurt Deemer Band.
"We could leave tonight; leave it all behind in the dead of night," he sings during the album's opener, "Dead of Night." A lean, sinewy rocker whose guitar arpeggios ring throughout every chorus, "Dead of Night" unfolds like a Springsteen-sized summons delivered by a man hellbent on a midnight car ride out of town. For a songwriter whose work has always nodded to the heartland rockers and classic craftsmen who came before him, it's an appropriate start to the most dynamic record of Deemer's career.
Reclaim the Night offers a mix of the mellow and the mighty, the introspective and the anthemic, the acoustic and the electric. Having played with the same group of Baltimore-based musicians for years, Deemer found himself in need of a change after World Upside Down's release, having written a handful of acoustic songs that didn't seem to match his band's amplified stomp. Looking for new collaborators, he assembled a small band and headed to a local warehouse, where Reclaim the Night was recorded in a rehearsal space whose cozy confines mirrored that of a bedroom. It wasn't fancy, but the space suited the new songs perfectly.
"At first, we weren't sure if we were making demos or the final product," Deemer admits. The group worked quickly, letting instincts lead the way, capturing each song without excess fanfare or frills. Honest and heartfelt, the recordings were then transferred to 2-inch tape for analog warmth, with Deemer recruiting DC post-punk veteran J. Robbins (Jawbox, Government Issue) to mix the songs. "We left some of the rough edges." he says of the finished product, taking pride in the album's raw, real, unpolished punch. "We did it the hard way. We did it old-school."
Years before he released records like 2016's Gaslight and 2018's Antenna Like a Lightning Rod, Deemer grew up in inner-city Baltimore. The FM radio was always on, filling the family household with a soundtrack of rock, pop, folk, and soul songs. He sang along to his favorites, laying the foundation for a career that would eventually find him sharing stages with Larkin Poe, Jesse Malin, and others. Before long, Deemer was making music of his own, graduating from the noisy clatter of his earliest recordings — which he strummed on a three-string guitar discovered in the back of his sister's closet — to the focused sounds of his first professional bands, including the Shadowmen and Vulgaria.
Vulgaria gradually morphed into the Kurt Deemer Band, whose ranks included longtime collaborators like drummer Steve Rose and guitarist John Christensen. Both of those musicians had been playing with Deemer since Vulgaria's heyday, resulting in a rich, deep chemistry that brought albums like World Upside Down to vivid life. Laced with electric guitar, organ, gang vocals, driving grooves, and harmonica, those records nodded to Deemer's heroes — including Tom Petty, Warren Zevon, and the Replacements — while exploring new territory, turning his classic influences into something singular.
Reclaim the Night turns a new page, with songs that focus not on the forces that threaten to pull us apart, but the love and hope that can bring us back together. "I wanna wrap my arms ‘round this world, hold her like a lost little girl, tell her it’s gonna be all right," Deemer sings in "Reclaim the Night Part 1," displaying an optimism that wasn't always so easy to find on the fiery World Upside Down. Likewise, "All the Love" is an open-armed anthem about compassion's ability to repair the burned bridges between us, while "Sweetness and Light" creates its own uplift with jangling guitar chords and a meteoric chorus. On "Weeds," he even extends a helping hand to someone lost to addiction, promising that "real love is free…you can call on me."
For more than two decades, Kurt Deemer has made workingman's rock & roll inspired by the trials and triumphs of the contemporary world. Already hailed by outlets like Americana UK for his "driving ahead roots-rock," he brings new drive and dimension to Reclaim the Night, an album whose acoustic-driven songs pack every ounce of power as their electrified counterparts. It's an album of hope and heart-on-sleeve honesty, delivered by a songwriter who, more than 20 years into his career, is still finding new directions to grow.