Louiston is a banner under which to assemble a range of trades steadily honed by Lou DiPietro over the course of years: guitarist, singer, songwriter, performer, and producer. Louiston also serves as a practice in holding tightly to the nourishing craft of songwriting and its varied, subsidiary parts, even as one’s life inverts and reshapes, like any adult’s.
Slick, seasoned guitar work, a pure and authentic voice, lyrics that matter, a deep DIY streak, and the production chops to make records on his own terms – these are what make Lou a one-man wrecking crew and one of the savviest, sharpest songwriters in upstate NY, and maybe beyond.
Born and raised in Olean, NY – in the far western notch of the state – and now living in Trumansburg, NY, in the Finger Lakes region, Lou is a mostly solo-acoustic singer and songwriter dabbling in americana, folk, indie, and good old-fashioned rock n’ roll. Lou’s been gigging around the Northeast since his late teens, but most recently and most frequently in and around upstate NY, in too many bars, wineries, and cafés to count.
His brand of songwriting draws on and honors the countless, varied artists and bands that made him: 90s-era “alternative”; any skate-punk band that existed between ’95 and ’05; the vintage sounds of Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, and Sam Cooke; Elliott Smith; Justin Townes Earle, and contemporaries including The National, Neko Case, Damien Jurado, and Owen. They’re all invited, these seemingly disparate sounds serving as unlikely ingredients in Lou’s reimagining of modern americana and folk music. The result is something fresh and authentic, a sound uniquely Lou’s: up-tempo, acoustic folk n’ roll, sometimes tender, sometimes caustic, but always human.
With Louiston, Lou – a writer by trade and a journalist in a past life – redirects his attention from the stories of others to those of his own, eschewing flowery, hollow dreck for honesty and simplicity. “Write like you talk, only better” was once a mantra for a young reporter cutting his teeth in the newsroom of his hometown newspaper. Today, it remains a guiding principle in Lou’s songwriting.
With the 2021 release of Civilian – his seventh-ish release and second true Louiston LP – Lou delivers his finest work to date, a tidy 8-song collection in which his stellar guitar-play and words are the linchpin sonic focal points. Whereas previous projects dabbled in liberal instrumentation or straight-up loud-ass guitars (see: Duels), the presence of space is Civilian’s hallmark: half of the songs are largely stripped of studio flourishes and guided expertly by Lou’s guitar and voice.
“Any good song should be able to stand on its own with just guitar and voice,” Lou said, “and that’s been my approach all along, and especially on Civilian.”
Among the subtleties of modern American life addressed in Civilian: a parade of muted faces, just like yours, longing for fulfillment and meaning and enduring yet another weekday commute to jobs that provide neither (“Alt + Ctrl + Delete”); an inner sabbatical from the steady strobe of #content (“Going Away for A While”), and the acceptance of one’s individual place in the world amid a culture hellbent on achieving notoriety and garnering attention at whatever cost (“Civilian”).
Listeners will note a somber undercurrent to this collection of songs, which Lou largely penned and recorded throughout the course of the three most tumultuous years of his life, this even before a pandemic swept the globe. Becoming a new father is as life-altering and tedious as it gets, but infinitely more so while gripped in a debilitating depression and ensuing recovery that erased all of 2019 and most of 2020. It was a vulnerable and disorienting time of enormous responsibility, crushing doubts, and misplaced identity (“Meditations on Modern Doubt”), further scarred by the loss of an old friend to suicide (“Classics”) and the collective anxieties surrounding the arrival and extended stay of SARS-CoV-2.
Only after seeking help in navigating depression and its distortions – a period soothed by genuine healing and growth – did his timid will to pick up the pen return. “Out From Shadow,” an exuberant ode to healing and Civilian’s most upbeat track, is the first such dispatch from Lou’s experience, and certainly not his last.
And yet, while Lou’s interior life experienced renewal and refinement, uncertainty, doubt, and creeping nihilism swirl in the throes of a pandemic, a climate crisis, a long-deferred racial reckoning, income disparity, and America’s entrenched petulance toward pretty much all these issues. It is a time ripe for artists across disciplines, of all stripes, to be – as James Baldwin wrote of artists – guilty of a crime: “not that you’re aware, which is bad enough, but that you see things other people don’t admit are there.”
For Lou, to create something from nothing – songs, records, even this very website – long ago shifted beyond hobby or pursuit to become a mode of being. Songwriter, performer, poet – it’s all in his blood now. What comes next is to our benefit.