Michael Goldberg’s encounters with tragedy has a huge impact on the music he makes. The last time I reviewed one of his songs was in 2016 for the single, “When It Rains”, written shortly after the death of Michael’s lifelong friend, Allan Goodman – an up-and-coming musician in the Texas music scene who was branching out into Nashville while battling stage 4 cancer. Prior to that sad event, Michael had been struggling with his own tragedies – the loss of his father and discovering his newborn son was deaf. Come 2017, and the Phoenix, AZ based, singer, songwriter and guitarist, has written a brand new song – based on a tragedy! This time around though the misfortune has occurred outside of his personal sphere, but has powerfully impacted Michael’s conscience nonetheless.
The track “Light Me Up” (featuring Bailey Jehl and Holden James), is based on the tragic story of a man, Jesse Arcobasso, and woman, Collette M. Moreno, who were engaged to be married. Collette was on her way to her bachelorette party with a friend and they were stuck behind a truck emitting a high volume of exhaust fumes. Her friend tried to go around the truck but turned into an oncoming vehicle, killing Moreno.
Michael says that the interview with her groom-to-be, Jesse, really hit home about how quickly and unexpectedly life can be taken from us. “I thought about my own family and put myself in his shoes,” said Michael. “Although the subject matter is quite heavy, “Light Me Up” is and always will be a love song though.”
Michael, a guitarist for over 25 years, who grew up on Satriani, Van Halen, Living Colour, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and a whole slew of guitar heroes has transitioned from performing artist to songwriter, focusing on multiple genres. “I also realized that the majority of my musical ideas are rarely suited toward my voice,” says Michael, “and it proved more worthwhile to try to find talented performers and vocalists to execute my music properly.”
And that is exactly what Michael Goldberg executes on “Light Me Up”, which features the devastatingly poignant duet performances of Bailey Jehl and Holden James. The song is a far cry from Goldberg’s guitar hero-inspired sounds as it wallows in a lush keyboard and string dominated arrangement.
The feeling of connection here is palpable. A musically sparse setting, with all the individual instruments make their presence felt, but it is the vocals that will haunt you. Not traditional harmonies, but Jehl and James playing off each other, sometimes melancholic, sometimes hopeful, but always in some kind of sync that becomes more and more evident through repeated plays.
The level of intricate and melodious songwriting demonstrated throughout the song is instantly striking – inviting anyone to connect with it regardless of its genre. The song immediately piques the listener’s interest with a warm and delicate soundscape serving as a backdrop to the vocal pair’s carefully interlaced performance.
“Light Me Up” (featuring Bailey Jehl and Holden James) thrives on the omission of a heavy beat, instead relying on slowly building chord progressions to allow the ballad to bloom. This is beautifully demonstrated as the song captures the inner emotions of a relationship.
I cannot stress enough how the voices of Jehl and James have managed to capture the harmony and tension that is often the chemistry between lovers. Clearly as refined songwriter, Michael Goldberg has come of age.