05/11/2010 11:17 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Could Peter Wolf -- Yeah, the Singer From J. Geils -- Have Made a Contender for Best CD of the Year?

Only grownups buy CDs of popular music now. Research tells us that kids know better -- they sample a CD, find the two or three songs that sound like keepers, and download them for a buck a shot.

Yeah, but what if a CD came along with every track a winner?

What if, as you listened, you could imagine playing this music for decades -- cranking it high in the car, using it as background music for parties, letting it keep you company as you work?

And even better, what if you knew that this CD would never get the attention it deserved and you would have whatever status accrues to the cool kid with the secret treasure?

Feeling me? Then waste not a minute -- order Peter Wolf's first CD in eight years, Midnight Souvenirs, right now. (If you can't wait, there's an MP3 download.)

Want proof? Let's start with the CD's first song, "Tragedy." How can you not love a CD that starts with a self-loathing guy singing:

I think I won the Fool's Award today
The way I made my baby cry
I can't believe the stupid things I say
Without one good reason why

Soon enough, Wolf is joined by Shelby Lynne, whose laser of a voice has been wonderfully aged in whiskey. She's not "company" for Wolf -- she's the love object, and just as distraught as he is. When she sings "no" nine times in a row, that is credibility. But don't take my word for it -- watch.

From there, it's Variety Hour. Wolf co-authored 12 of the 14 songs, but you'd swear none of them is new -- though original, the music has the authority of classic R&B, old-time country, Philly soul, Mississippi cotton-picker blues and more. The musicians are the finest that money can't buy. The guests include Neko Case and Merle Haggard.

Who is Peter Wolf? Oh, you know him. He was the lead singer of the J. Geils Band, the home rockers of Boston and a jillion jukeboxes. He moved on to a solo career and, in 2002, released a CD called Sleepless, which is just as good as Midnight Souvenirs. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Steve Earle sang backup on that one, and guess what -- they didn't suck.

Long time between releases. That's what happens to great musicians these days. Kudos to Wolf for persisting. More praise for thinking in terms of CDs rather than random downloads. And a big shout-out to Kenny White -- the extravagantly ironic singer-songwriter and killer keyboard player -- who produced both "Sleepless" and "Midnight Souvenirs."

CD of the year? Put it this way: Last week, I ordered Midnight Souvenirs for my super-smart stepson, who could stand some modest diversion during the run-up to his law school exams. This morning, he wrote me: "I am on a crack binge...I mean, I have listened to this CD thirty times since you sent it." Me too, kiddo.

If the voices of age and youth haven't pushed you to the one-click button, try the first song again, in the green room, with just a piano. Careful. This stuff is addictive.

Peter Wolf has gathered a hot band and is making a rare tour this month. If you're close to these cities, you will hate yourself in the morning for staying home:
May 11 - Northampton, MA - Iron Horse
May 12 - Portland, ME - Port City Music Hall
May 15 - Chicago, IL - Park West
May 17 - Detroit, MI - St Andrews
May 18 - Buffalo, NY - Town Ballroom
May 19 - Pittsburgh, PA - Mr. Smalls
May 21 - Albany, NY - Swyer Auditorium at the Egg
May 22 - Norfolk, CT - Infinity Hall
May 23 - Providence, RI - Lupo's
May 25 - Boston, MA - Wilbur Theatre
May 26 - New York, NY - Highline Ballroom
May 27 - West Chester, PA - The Note
May 28 - Brooklyn, NY - The Bell House
May 30 - Falls Church, VA - State Theatre

Cross-posted from