Reno Bo was a middle-school kid living in Poughkeepsie, New York, when a friend gave him the Beatles’ White Album for Christmas. Bo hadn’t listened much to classic rock radio; he was a pop fan, raised on Beach Boys records and the doo-wop songs his parents would play at home. The White Album blew the doors wide open, though, kicking Bo down a rabbit hole filled with the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Big Star’s #1 Record and Led Zeppelin I. There was no turning back.
Years later, those early influences are on full display with Lessons From a Shooting Star, an album that mixes the hooks and harmonies of classic pop music with the size, sweep and swagger of rock & roll. It’s Bo’s second solo record, with the multi-instrumentalist handling virtually every job — from the songwriting to the bass guitar to the vocals to the production — himself. For a musician who’d spent the past decade touring the world as a member of other people’s bands, including Albert Hammond Jr. (the Strokes), the Mooney Suzuki, Caitlin Rose and Andrew Combs, Lessons From a Shooting Star was a chance to focus inward. It was a chance to make music that was completely his.
Lessons From a Shooting Star may be a modern album, but its basic ingredients — jangling electric guitar, B3 organ, harmonies, double-tracked melodies, Farfisa — cook up a sound that’s nostalgic, too. “The Brighter Side,” a power-pop track co-written with Brendan Benson, could’ve been tracked at Ardent Studios during the 1970s, rather than Bo’s own Nashville apartment during the mid-2010s. A similar vibe anchors songs like “How Do You Do, which he recorded with guitarist Sadler Vaden, the only other musician to make it onto the album.
With its influences proudly worn on its sleeve, Lessons From a Shooting Star nods to the music that shaped Bo’s life back in New York while still pushing forward to something new. Looks like the guy has learned his lessons well.