Pittsburgh’s John Vento continues to spark conversation and light up the night with his thought-provoking songs. His latest rock/Americana/roots offering, “America (The Saints Come Marching Home)” has him taking off his gloves and coming at the listener with gut-punch lyrics. Vento, along with co-writer Frank Ferraro, tackle the topic of extremists at work and their dividing actions. This reflection of the times, this mirrored look at society is wrapped in the blanket of tribal percussion, moving flute and bursting electric guitar. In his quest to open the listeners’ eyes, Vento succeeds at showing us reality.

Vento, who also fronts the bands The Nied’s Hotel Band and The Businessmen, is also the voice behind the riveting spoken word track “Vices”. He received a Communitas Award Winner for his work with non-profit, Band Together Pittsburgh and notched a Billboard Emerging Artist profile in 2019. His generosity is ever-present with the fearless guitar playing. The weight of the world, it would appear, is on Vento’s shoulders in the stirring “America (The Saints Come Marching Home)”. The relics of the past come to the future, a warning to the nation, that the balance is upset. Vento’s raspy, aged like whiskey voice, tethers to the guitar and the aching drums, like a gun to a soldier.

The bind is strong and his strong voice provides even further ammunition and stability. The holy ghost is on his knees, crushed by sticks and stones, he calls out. While listening to the song, it’s easy to imagine Vento in the recording studio with his eyes closed and feeling the breadth of this song. He sings for himself and he sings for generations past, present and future. He’s seen his share of hate and divisiveness and he’s had enough. He doesn’t need to say – the listener feels it in the tempo. It’s a storm gathering, a collision of forces. Picking up dust on the backs of the weak, Vento sings, creating a perfect image.

Moving underneath him and all around is the sound of Native American-like drumming and humming. It’s almost like a chant. Maybe Vento is saying the sins of our past are coming back to haunt us? Or are they hear to warn us? The guitar, just as haunting and ghostly, goes through the song like a stealth rum runner. It’s regimented and echoes of the Civil War, and all the wars combined, meet as one. The faint flute, an almost whisper, catches the ear. A backing (female) voice, too, is in the background and is spellbinding. She’s a respite from the blazing guitar and marching percussion. She’s a guiding force, just the same. This song can be just as breathtaking as it can be rock and roll. With so many distractions and a barrage of bad news, protest songs can heal and they can also poke the bear. They make us stop and really listen. When life feels impossible and chaotic, it’s songs like “America (The Saints Come Marching Home)” that remind the listener of the relentless, manifest destiny of American artists.

Sebastian Cole