Bill Hangley, Jr. – Jukebox Jed and Other Songs

Bill Hangley, Jr. – Jukebox Jed and Other Songs

An intimate and original folk journey reflecting the spirit of Heartcore Records, recorded and produced by Kurt Rosenwinkel: “When an artist is at one with what they are doing, it opens a magical door … at my apartment in Brooklyn, that door opened.”

Berlin, July 26 2023

Heartcore Records is pleased to announce the release of “Jukebox Jed and Other Songs,” a collection of original material by Philadelphia songwriter Bill Hangley Jr.

“I started my own label to share great art, wherever it may come from,” said Rosenwinkel. “When you press play, you’ll take a classic American folk journey – real music coming from real experience. Bill knows how to express his true self. This makes the sound something better than perfect.”

The new collection features 11 original songs, including eight by Hangley, a working journalist who found his songwriting voice busking on Prague’s famous Charles Bridge. Rosenwinkel recorded and produced the sessions, contributing instruments and vocals to several tracks, including a cathedral swirl of keyboards on a featured single, single, a soaring ballad called “Ubu’s Blues.”

“These songs are bluesy and country and all kinds of other stuff, but the important thing to me is, they’re all true,” said Hangley. “Even the parts that aren’t true are true.”

Raised in a family of musicians, Hangley’s style was shaped by Philadelphia’s eclectic soundtrack of pop, jazz, soul and rock. He was inspired to get serious about guitar after seeing a young Rosenwinkel play a high school talent show. “He blew everybody away,” said Hangley. “Then I found out he’d only been playing a few years and I said, damn.Better get on it.”

The two became friends, and Hangley eventually found himself drawn to bluegrass and folk music. Hangley moved to Prague in 1991 to pursue a career in journalism; there he co-founded a country/swing band called the Lazy Pigs and played his way around Central Europe.

“I was never the guy to book dates in clubs,” Hangley said. “I was the guy who stood on the street and sang and hoped that good things would happen, and they did.”

Back in Philadelphia, Hangley built a career as a news reporter, but never stopped writing or playing. His performances combine original songs with the traditional tunes he learned at jam sessions and picking parties. “Jukebox Jed” is his first label release since the Lazy Pigs’ “Prasata na Hrad!” (“Pigs to the Castle!”), released in 1993 on Prague’s Podulka Records.

“I consider myself a successful artist because, after all these years, I’ve still got my art,” said Hangley. “Music has brought me almost everything I value. It’s how I met my friends, it’s how I met my wife, it’s what I still turn to for strength and solace and fun. Journalism is my career and I love it. But when I need to write something for myself, I write a song.”

The “Jukebox Jed” collection is spare and intimate, featuring Hangley’s distinctive voice and his Martin acoustic guitar. The title track is a haunting ballad telling the tale of a lost American whose fantasies of glory are undone by his violent insecurities:

“And when his mama saw Jed on the TV screen
“She called up her friend who said oh, you mean
“Your boy’s that one from up Kansas City;
“Why’d he kill that girl who was so pretty?”

Another highlight is the album’s debut single, the comically dismissive 12-bar “Good To You Blues,” which deserves consideration for anyone’s bad-breakup playlist:

“Is anybody ever really gonna love you? You’re gonna find out someday
“Is anybody ever really gonna love you? You’re gonna find out someday
“One way or the other, it just ain’t my place to say.”


Other songs are the elegant “New York by Night,” the wry  “Lonely Man,”and “Ubu’s Blues,” a heartfelt memorial to a dying friend that closes with this epitaph:

“I’m wishing for you, may you run in the sun
“May you fly like the wind, may you never be done
“May you be the only thing you ever wanted to be
“I’ll wish it for you – wish it for me ….”

Recorded twenty years ago at Rosenwinkel’s Brooklyn apartment, the 11 tracks remain fresh and vital. Rosenwinkel’s contributions include bass, drums, guitars and keyboards on the title track and “Ubu’s Blues.” He also brings his ethereal vocals to “Time Finds Everything,” written by another Charles Bridge veteran, Claude Cahn.

“I guess a good test of a song is to put it away for a few decades to see if it stands up,” Hangley said. “These songs do.”

The other contributor is New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, whose bellowing bus can be heard between verses of the “Good To You Blues.” “Dig the Brooklyn bus solo,” said Rosenwinkel. “Comes right on time!”

For Rosenwinkel, the “Jukebox Jed” sessions carry him back to his days as a young musician, wide open to inspiration. “It harkens back to being a teenager at the Philadelphia Folk Festival,” Rosenwinkel said. “We’d camp out for four or five days in cheap tents and party all night, going from jam session to jam session. The music ranged from blues to folk to virtuosic bluegrass. It was a wonderful time, and Bill’s music has all of that in it.”

The sessions also reflect the spirit Rosenwinkel wants to bring to Heartcore Records.

“When an artist is at one with what they are doing, it opens a magical door,” he said. “At my apartment in Brooklyn, that magical door opened. The strumming and the groove, the tone and body of the guitar – it’s addictive. It brings you in. You hear a very thoughtful person who has something to say.”

For Hangley, the release is unexpected chance to share songs that have rarely been heard beyond a small circle of friends and fans. Besides his own tunes and Cahn’s, the “Jukebox Jed” collection features two songs by fellow Lazy Pig, Jim Bozeman: “Red Dress” and “Lostville III.”

“I’m lucky to know Kurt,” said Hangley. “One thing I’ve learned is, the world is full of amazing songs and songwriters you’ve never heard of. To be able to share my music and my friends’ music with people who love music is a gift. I won’t kid you – when Kurt told me he wanted to release this stuff, I cried.”

Today, Hangley, 54, remains a working journalist and occasional performer, but the release of “Jukebox Jed” offers a good excuse to play more and see what happens. “Somebody once asked Charlie Parker why he liked country music, and he said, ‘It’s the stories, man.’ That’s the path I’ve followed,” said Hangley. “Wherever the stories are, that’s where I want to go.”

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