Category Archives: Folk

Album Review: NOFX / Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex

It’s not the first time a couple of artists decided to drop a split release for shits and giggles, but it’s probably the first time one to this character was done.

When I learned NOFX and Frank Turner were working on a split, I have to admit I was excited as hell because I knew both sides would try their best to emulate each other.

It’s been a long time since NOFX did a split with another band.  I am sure you older punks recall the last NOFX / Rancid split that dropped some 18 years ago.  This time though, it was not really a punk band covering a punk band but rather a punk band covering a punk-turned-folk-singer band.

West Coast vs. Wessex is a 10 song split released by Fat Wreck Chords featuring two of the most important acts out there.  I was not sure how this was going to play out seeing how their styles are a little far-fetched, but I’m a fool for even dismissing the idea of greatness this album could be.

Leave it to Fat Mike to change up the lyrics to become a tad more personable on “Substitute”.  Less proper and more pervy, the track honestly could pass as a classic NOFX song had Turner not penned it so many years back.

“Thatcher Fucked The Kids” was a two-town-jam cover that I could not imagine was even possible until I heard it.  This was a great take on a killer Turner track.  Full of guest vocals, the only way this could have gotten better was if El Hefe busted out some of his impersonations at the end for the hell of it.

“Glory Hallelujah” was an intense, serious cover that probably will continue to upset those who engage in worship and magic bearded man in the sky.  At first I thought it was just exorbitant, but after a few listens I couldn’t agree more with how it was carried out.

Turner covering “Scavenger Type” was just brilliant.  I have to admit it did not fully carry how I was anticipating it, but it worked so well.  I was expecting a more folk take, but not on this track and that was fine by me.

The take on “Bob” was a perfect jaunt complete with some harmonica and just chill vibes.  The rendition did not require an upbeat undertaking, but when Turner belted out at the end, I was singing along just as I did when I first heard the original in the 90s.  The music video for this is pretty freaking hilarious too.

“Falling In Love” stole the split if you ask me.  As far as I am concerned, NOFX traveled to the future to steal this song from Turner and tossed it on an album when Turner was just a kid.  It has been a long time since I have heard an interpretation sound better than the original.

The cool thing about West Coast vs. Wessex was how well each band took an idea of covers and put absolute thought into it. Both sides took it seriously, well as much as they could, and took their time perfecting their versions of a handful of each band’s earlier material.

Some of me was hoping for more classic NOFX humor at times, perhaps even a continuation where a hilarious Minor Threat cover left off.  Still, plenty of innuendos were tossed in by Fat Mike as well as a huge Fat entourage of guests.

Frank Turner fans need to hear this even if they do not take NOFX serious at all.  NOFX fans will appreciate the continued creativity in taking other work’s and tossing their own style around it.  This idea just worked well and it had nothing to do with luck.  Fat Mike has had a few good ideas you know…

Visit the Fat Wreck Chords site to snag a copy for yourself.

Album Review: Sam Russo – Back to the Party

Being cooped up because of some asinine virus has not been my favorite thing as of late.  I really shouldn’t complain though, as I know many pals of mine are hurting severely because of this pandemic.  If I could help everyone, I would.  Trust me on that.

I offer a distraction to anyone who needs it right now via music.  It’s the least I can do.

My pal Toby from that punk label out there called Red Hair Bimbo Trees or something sent me a message today reminding me that the great Sam Russo has new material that just dropped and encouraged me to stop sitting there and do something.

Who is Sam Russo you ask?  He’s a UK punk rocker who honestly could put his back up these days to a young Frank Turner when it comes to musical style and craftsmanship, but that’s being a little lazy for comparison.  Said differently, if you love when punk lead singers do their solo thing and get all Revival Tour on your ass, you’ll love this dude.  I guarantee it based on his storytelling ability.

Russo has actually been around for a while now and Back to the Party is his third release on Red Scare Records.  I was lucky enough to get a good taste of him thanks to 2015’s Greyhound Dreams and have really been waiting for the day he dropped some new tunes.

“I took a lot of risks on this record and I’m so glad I did because it came out sounding really original and totally true to what I was trying to say for so many years.” – Sam Russo

“Purple Snow” started off the album a little personal and a tad incoherent in terms of the story within the song.  I adored this track upon first listen.  Russo honestly has never sounded better.  Perhaps a personal memoir, this track carried enough emotion to have me thinking of some of my past history.  I am curious though, was the snow purple from Mad Dog 20/20?  One can hope…one can hope.

“Good and Gone” I think was taken from my own personal memory of most of 2009.  This song hit the heart hard, as it sung of hurt and triumph.  These are the tunes that make me happy exist because the show me where I’ve been, where I can from, and what I’ve become.

“Darkness” followed and continued to tug on forced-in feelings with an apologetic excuse on interpersonal communication, or the lack thereof.  Wholesome and pure, this track probably will be relating to a lot of folk.

There’s so much that can be said about “Young Heroes” based on how the listener took it in.  Given the current situation, this track speaks volumes to those who are working harder than ever based on some stupid pandemic.  Not trying to sound cliché at all, but there’s a lot of heroes in my book right now.

I can not really talk about a certain track on here in great detail, but if you know me, you know it totally kicked my ass by the title alone.  The past will always sting back when you least expect it.  Maybe I need to appreciate it more than I give myself credit for seeing how it shaped me, but still, that shit hurts.  Nice job Russo, you jerk – I might have had a tear or two let loose…

Just when you think there’d be a slight let up of sorrow on the album, “Tears” kicked in.  This really was a beautiful track overall, but not to be reckoned with if you’re trying to lift them spirits high.  I mean, that chorus alone gave me chills.  Add lap-steel guitar playing that sparked a slight country feel made for my favorite track of the record.

“The Basement” ended the album with symbolism at its finest.  Russo came to terms with life due to rummaging around and only could sit back and reflect on where things went wrong.  Putting a lid to the album with this track just made so much sense.

Russo is a storyteller as much as he is a musician.  Personal tales might make you want to hug your drink a little harder when you listen to this album, but let’s be real – sometimes it is nice to remember you’re human.

Back to the Party is a must listen for any music fan.  Although some songs were full of ache, there really was a  silver lining in terms of hope.  I feel like I am trying to be motivational here, but let’s face it, times are weird as hell right now.  We can all use a distraction.

Hang in there folks.

BHP Best Of 2018

It’s that time of the year again folks where I share with you the bands and albums that caught my attention throughout the year.

Sure, my reviewing is infrequent these days, may not make total sense or even be read by many for that matter, but I can tell you that I am listening to as much music as possible daily.

If my memory serves me correct, this will be my 10th Best Of post.  Sitting back and just thinking that this blog has been around for 10 years now completely floors me.  Thanks to anyone who’s ever stopped by to see what’s good.  Here’s to however many more years I decide to keep this going.

With that said, happy holidays and here is my list in no particular order:


Timeshares – Out There EP
-Easily one of my most played EPs of the year.  I was obsessed with it for weeks and was caught off guard in a good way by it.  I can not wait for their next full-length now.  Loving their rejuvenated sound.


Strung Out – Blackout the Sky EP
-Not going to lie.  I was not stoked at all to hear Strung Out was going to do an acoustic album.  I do not know why I even doubted that they would not have done something amazing.  This EP was amazing and showed a completely different side to one of the best bands out there.


Spells – Loose Change Vol. 1
-Ok so this is a collection of early out of print tunes by the Colorado punk party rockers, but this was my first taste of the band after somehow missing out of them for all these years.  I caught them touring with Off With Their Heads earlier this year and turned into an instant fan.


Curtail – All Your Luck
-This is probably one of the best releases that came out this year that you may have not heard about.  I could sit here and talk about it for hours, but I will leave it to you and check it out.  Just think 90s alt rock mixed with 00s emo/post-hardcore goodness.


Laura Jane Grace & the Devouring Mothers – Brought to Rot
-This was the most punk rock album to come out all year.  Laura Jane Grace is sincere as she talks about her current dwelling and overall situation without holding back.  I was overly impressed with this one.


Turnstile – Time & Space
-An amazing hardcore release that really is so much more once you get sucked into it.  It really is a genius album to listen to especially with some 80s punk and R&B moments tossed in for the hell of it (just listen to “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind”).  Certainly happy I stumbled on these guys.


Light Years – Afterlife
-Hands down, this is one of the best pop punk albums to come out this year.  I knew it was going to be good, but I did not realize it was going to be that good.


Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)
-This album has turned me into an even bigger Face To Face fan.  I feared hearing it because I really did not want to hear a punk band play acoustic renditions of their songs, but man, I was so wrong to doubt them.  They reinvented their songs in the best way possible.


The Interrupters – Fight The Good Fight
-Two-toned, punk fueled, and amazing throughout.  There’s a reason why Tim Armstrong produced this album.


The Ruen Brothers – All My Shades of Blue
-This album was like listening to The Gaslight Anthem team up with Roy Orbison to score a Wes Anderson flick.  I adore these guys and hope to hell I can see them live one day.  This was the album that complete caught me by surprise this year and fell in love with.


Spanish Love Songs – Schmaltz
-This album is like the energy of The Menzingers + the emotion of MakeWar.  The band clearly has matured into something incredible and this release proves it.  Do not sit on this one.


Red City Radio – SkyTigers EP
-This is the best thing this band has ever done.  There was just this certain amount of gallant confidence throughout.  The song “SkyTigers” proved that to me over and over.


Johnny La Rock – Gold Codes
-I was drunk in Vegas earlier this year and admitted Gold Codes was an album of the year for me.  La Rock is a hidden gem in Cleveland that the world really should get to know some.


Bar Stool Preachers – Grazie Governo
-Working class and bad ass all in one album.  These guys rule.  It’s like Dropkick Murphys if they were a ska band.


Mad Caddies – Punk Rocksteady
-Taking punk rock songs and putting their own reggae style to it was just a brilliant idea.  This covers album was done right and received well by this listener.


Restorations – LP5000
-Yeah, this was one of my favorite releases this year.  This band can do no wrong and I appreciated their maturing lyrics more than ever.  Seeming them live finally this year was also an added bonus.


Four Fists – 6666
-This collaboration between P.O.S. and Astronautics completely slays.  This rap duo really dropped an impressive album complete with plenty of punk references and beats guaranteed to get stuck in your head for days.


Vessel of Light – Woodshed
-This album takes everything great about Danzig, White Zombie, and even old Alice in Chains and puts them all together for a solid listen.  Super impressed with this one.


Frank Turner – Be More Kind
-Everyone needs to listen to this album, especially “Be More Kind”.  I am fairly sure it will make your day if not a better person.  Frank Turner is one talented mo-fo.


Lucero – Among The Ghosts
-I love this album mostly for the band embracing where life has taken them over the years.  They have not lost their style one bit and for that I thank them.  This has turned into one of my favorite Lucero releases.

 

Thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Album Review: Johnathan Richman – SA

Sometimes you forget about things because you’re  just so preoccupied with life.

That normal routine, if you’re like me, starts with coffee and ends with exhaustion.  What I’m basically trying to get at is that I forgot to do something.  It was an honest mistake though.

I forgot to take a few moments to myself and write about the latest release by Johnathan Richman titled SA.

SA is Richman’s 17th album as a solo singer/songwriter.  Once again on Blue Arrow Records, Richman has recorded an eccentric yet honest, poetic album where he sings about everything from love, dancing, and even a creative point of view from a dog.  It’s simply art put to music.

According to Blue Arrow Records on their Bandcamp site, “SA, the root note in Indian ragas, was what Ramakrishna,
the much beloved mystic, told his spiritual students to search for underneath all things of this world.”  Chances are if you are reading this, you know Richman and why he would reference such.

Album title track “SA” opened up with a relaxed, island-y feel and had Richman singing of focus and love without hesitation.  The sitar, at least that is what it sounded like to me, complimented Richman’s strumming.

Subtle quirks were heard in Richman’s pitch throughout “The Fading Of An Old World”.  This track really had a lot going on musically when you sit back and listen.  On top of it, Richman did what he does best in flowing ample and intense lyrics throughout.

“O Mind! Let Us Go Home” held as an eccentric tune that had some likable psychedelic qualities.  The jazzy drumming behind the tambura playing kept things beyond mysterious.

Richman sounded so youthful in “O Mind! Just Dance”, a track that seemingly was a continuation of the previous ‘O Mind’ track.  This experimental track became one of my favorites the moment Richman just started opening up and going on a positive tangent about not worrying.  I loved how he seemingly turned his attention and spoke to the audience halfway through asking everyone to forget and dance.

“¡Alegre Soy!” was just amazing as it was a peppy, cheerful song.  Sung mostly in Spanish, the song really just built up so well.  I instantly adored the track the moment Richman just started doing a spoken word about how happiness surrounded his life.  I could hear him smiling as he spoke about always being happy in his life for the most part.  Once the track ended, I was just left with such a good feeling in my heart.

“Yes, Take Me Home” was easily my favorite track off this release.  As someone who has rescued a dog more than once, I because almost a little emotional listening to Richman speak as a sheltered canine with an undisclosed past.  I loved the harmonium playing accompanying Richman’s guitar, but I just wish I knew if the dog was taken home.

“And Do No Other Thing” was an instant classic for me.  Songs like this one were what turned me into a Richman fan in the first place.  It was romantic yet blunt with completeness especially when everyone came together at the end.

This album, in my opinion, was far more entertaining and good-spirited than the last making for a great listen.  Richmond, at times, sounded as if he got lost in the moment more than once and did not once chance his approach at what he was born to do: Entertain.

I should note that Richman and Tommy Larkins currently are on tour in support of SA.  I was lucky enough to catch them a few weeks back at the Grog Shop in Cleveland  and I will tell you, it was probably one of my favorite intimate performances that I have ever seen.

I went to that show purely as a fan and not to review it and left with a happy vibe that lasted well past the car ride home and the next work day.  It was my first time seeing him live even though I have been a fan for longer than half my life.  He was everything I had hoped for.

With that said, if Johnathan and Tommy made it to your neck of the woods during this tour or even the next, just go.  You will not be disappointed.  Even if you are not terribly familiar with his material, I can honestly say you will be entertained by one of the best.

SA is available on CD and for download on Bandcamp.  Look for a cassette and LP release in early 2019.

BHP Best of 2017

It’s crazy that 2017 is coming to an end already.  I feel like I always seem to say that around this time of the year, but it’s true.

It feels like it was just yesterday that I turned into a 40 year old.  Let me tell you, that was kind of a big change for me and I might have sulked about it for 7-8 months.

More importantly, my wife and I welcomed our amazing, chill little daughter to the world in July.  She is the coolest, but don’t tell my son I said that.

Clearly dadage life takes up most of my time these days and this blog is not what it used to be, but I still try to crank out reviews and whatnot when I can because I love it.

I may be busy with life, but I am always listening to music and have checked out tons of albums by amazing bands and artists.  Where I wish I could review everything that I have come across, I simply have to pick and choose when I can.

It’s been a tradition of sorts for me to do a Best Of post, and there is nothing I would rather do that share with you some of my favorite releases of 2017.  So, without further delay…[well maybe some as I am trying to narrow this down to just 20, but who am I kidding???  Edit: I might have added to this best of list a few times now…]

I ‘m super proud to say that four of my favorite releases in 2017 are all Cleveland bands so they obviously need to be mentioned first:


Heart & Lung – You Wanna Know the Truth?
This is the album that caught me by complete surprise.  My pal told me to check them out and I did and I loved this entire pop punk jam of an album to the point that I still listen to it almost daily.  If I was able to sign them and put out a record, I would have already.  This band has so much potential to be huge.


Heart Attack Man – The Manson Family

Words can really not express how great this album is.  It’s punk, it’s grunge, it’s good, and it’s comprised of great folk.  Do not sleep on this one.


Two Hand Fools – Falling In / Falling Out
I was lucky enough to hear this album over the summer and was beyond blown away by how amazing it was.  It is seriously the best thing the band has done so far and I adore it from start to finish.  This is one of Cleveland’s best bands if you ask me.


Warbrides – Regrets

Oh man this album rips…

Of course there were others too…


Iron Chic – You Can’t Stay Here

Do I really need to even say anything?  This album is damn near perfect.


Smith Street Band – More Scared of You Than You Are of Me
These Aussies have put out one of my favorite albums of the year.  I loved how catchy, fun, and overly personal it was.  I still have intentions on getting one of the lyrics off this album tattooed on me. I also need to buy the damn record already for my collection.


Propagandhi – Victory Lap 
It should say a lot how politically charged this album was from a Canadian band about the US mess we are in.  I really adore this album from start to finish.  It’s damn perfect.


Hot Water Music – Never Going Back
The more I listened to this album, the more I appreciated it.  It is a wiser, more mature release by this iconic punk band.


Scorpios – Scorpios Vol. 2

When Joey Cape told me in an interview that Scorpios might just return and someone with the initials C.C. would take over where Sly left off, I was beyond stoked and instantly knew it was Chris Cresswell.  This is one of the albums this year that everyone needs to just give a chance.


Demons – Embrace Wolf
I just found out about these guys from a good friend recently and I have listened to their debut release almost daily since.  This band packs a severe punch with their post-hardcore greatness.


Ho99o9 – United States of Horror
Hardcore punk mixed with hip hop?  Yes please.  This album was beyond insane.  Death Grips ain’t got nothing on these dudes.


Frank Carter and the Rattle Snakes – Modern Ruin
I miss Gallows so much, but what Frank Carter and crew released has me happy that he still puts himself out there for everyone to hear.  This is more of a rock album but it’s so rad.


Sweet Apple – Sing the Night in Sorrow
I was not sold on my first listen, but after a few more I realized I should have paid more attention the first time.  Remarkable release by some amazing musicians.


Anti-Flag – American Fall
I do not really care with anyone thinks here, Anti-Flag released a political, poignant album that everyone who has a clue needs to check out.  They have perfected their sound so much on this album.


The Flatliners – Inviting Light
Upon first listen I was not totally sold on the band tapping their brakes compared to previous releases, but the more and more listened to it, the more and more I appreciated what they had to offer.  This really is a hell of an album.


Fred Thomas – Changer
This man can do no wrong.  I love his style and uniqueness and the fact he gets excited about my Instagram posts every once in a while.  His latest release just hit me as it encompassed change.


Body Count – Bloodlust
Back in ’93, I was a huge Body Count fan.  I am sure I can still recite most of the lyrics off their debut.  After that first album, I just never got into them the same.  Then Bloodlust came out and once again they have grabbed my attention.  Ice T, Ernie C, and crew really delivered a heavy ass album with plenty of special guests.


Menzingers – After the Party
I feel like every album they release I am putting it on my best of list, but hey, it rules and deserves to be noted.


Ride – Weather Diaries
This album is incredible from start to finish.  I honestly was not expecting this seeing how the band hadn’t released material in over 20 years.  Clearly I am dumb for thinking that.


A Giant Dog – Toy
This band is straight up insane and I love the hell out of them for that.


Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober (Part One)

I was strangely fascinated with this kid and his emo rap to the point that I was listening to this album almost daily.  I could not stand some of the topics he was singing about and just felt like I was too old to even admit I was listening, but I loved the music and his overall singing style.  Sadly he OD’d last month so the world will never know how big he could have gotten.  I really felt this kid had so much talent.


Tim Barry – High On 95

Once again this man has taken his honest music and beat up all the emotions inside of me.  Working class hero musician with storytelling abilities like none other.


Quicksand – Interiors
I honestly was not anticipating this release to be as good as it is.  I hate to be that guy, but I was not impressed with the couple of tracks the band released prior to the album.  Little did I know they were just puzzle pieces to a killer album.


Iron Reagan – Crossover Ministry
So much thrash goodness here.  Also, best album cover too.


Needles // Pins – Good Night, Tomorrow
I am thinking that a lot of people might not have hear of these guys here in the states, but you can change that.  This punk rock group released a great album.  Note to self:  Buy the LP already!


The Electric Grandmother – Cancelled.
There is no way I was going to overlook this concept album by two very close friends of mine.  Even if they are too good to play a Cleveland show, I love them dearly and am amazed with Cancelled.  It’s the best thing they have done to date in my opinion.

Honorary Mentions:

  • Choke Up – Stormy Blue
  • Bad Cop/Bad Cop – Warriors
  • Shedders – Dangerous Jumps
  • Rancid – Trouble Maker
  • Gorillaz – Humanz
  • The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
  • Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Rake It In:  The Greatestest Hits
  • Ethan Danial Davidson – Crows
  • No Use For A Name – Rarities Vol. 1: The Covers
  • Stutter Steps – Floored
  • Western Addiction – Tremulous
  • Cloud Nothings – Life Without Sound
  • Japandroids – Near To the Wild Heart of Life
  • Swingin’ Utters – Drowning in the Sea, Rising with the Sun: Best of Swingin’ Utters
  • TSOL – The Trigger Complex
  • Greg Graffin – Millport
  • Powerflo – Powerflo
  • Quicksand – Interiors
  • Beck – Colors

As always, this was fun to take some time and think about all the great releases that came out over the past year.  I probably could have put even more up here, but the ones listed (along with the honorable mentions) are the ones that impacted me the most.

I’m glad I did not sunset this site as I actually thought about over the summer.  I’m going on 10 years now and after careful thought have no intentions of closing shop anytime soon.

A big you to all the bands and the great PRs who have even thought of asking me to check something new out.  I am sorry I can not always get the review out, but I promise you, I listen to just about everything that is sent my way.

Thank you to you if you are reading this for checking out my site.  Whether you are new or visit often, I appreciate you for checking me out.  Without you, this site would be meaningless.

Happy Holidays to you and yours and all that jazz.