Category Archives: Outlaw Country

BHP Best of 2016

It’s that time of the year again folks.  Time to sit here and type out a list of bands that have impressed me one way or another.  I am not keeping to a set number as it would take me forever to narrow it down.

A sincere thanks to everyone who’s ever visited this site – seriously.  I know I tend to say that around the time I do my best of lists, but I really mean it.  I almost called it quits  earlier this year and reconsidered at the last minute.

This blog is very personal to me and even if more people find it while Googling how to fix their headphones, it is still fun to do.  If I can turn someone on to a new band just by one post, then my job is done.

With that said, I plan on sticking around for a while.

I am sure I will add a few more as they come to me in the next couple of weeks (as I always do [up to 3 edits now]), but for now, here’s the list of the albums that really caught my attention in 2016:

[EDIT:  The year is not over yet and I needed to throw in just a couple more…]


Chandeli’ers – Breaker
-This was the album that hit me in the right way.  It was fun across the board and sounded like the Clash meets Elvis Costello.  What more could you ask for?


Run The Jewels – RTJ3
-This album was not supposed to drop until 3 weeks into the new year, but El-P and Killer Mike decided to drop it on Christmas day for all to enjoy.  I can not stop listening to it.  I know I am not the only one either.

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"
MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity
-Hands down one of my favorite surprise releases of the year.  This punk rock band has thrown together an album I will be listening to over and over for years to come.

joe-mcmahon
Joe McMahon – Another Life
-This is another one of my favorite albums this year.  McMahon shared with the world an outstanding collection of tunes that everyone needs to check out.  His solo material is a lot different from his Smoke or Fire days and that is not a bad thing at all.

Bob Mould
Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
-Mould recorded a masterpiece with Patch the Sky.  If you have not had the chance to listen to this album, you are missing out.  This album is perfect to listen to any day.

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!
-I am kicking myself for not putting this on my list initially.  Richman is one of the most prolific songwriters out there and put out quite the release.  I loved how song his songs were fun at times while others were just complex and reached across borders.  He really showcased his musical abilities on this release.  This guy has been writing music for longer than I have been alive and still is able to put out quality albums.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
-I have been a fan of this band for over 25 years now, so it only makes sense that this release made my list.  Oh, it also kicks so much ass.  Lou Barlow singing on it made it that much better.

All Dinosaurs
All Dinosaurs – Total Dissatisfaction
-Where do I even start with this one?  It’s like listening to the Bronx, but better, and from Cleveland.  I love this album so much that I literally just bought the LP from their bandcamp page.  No lie.

Useless ID
Useless ID – State is Burning
-This band will always be one of my favorites and this release continued to keep me a fan.  With a much more harder approach, they really killed it on this one.  I also adored the nod to the late Brandon Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket.

pulley
Pulley – No Change in the Weather 
This band was a huge favorite of mine in the late 90s and I thought they were done in the mid-2000s, but low and behold, they came back with an album that seemingly continued where they left off without missing a beat.  “Sometimes” is such a great track.

Beach Slang
Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
-James Alex (and former crew) have created a timeless album for music fans of all ages.  Catchy yet poignant, the album has been on a weekly rotation to my ears since the album dropped.  It may clock in at around 30 minutes, but it is a hell of a ride from start to finish.

Worship This! - Mint
Worship This! – Mint
-So what if these guys are my pals, their sophomore release blew me away.  I can not say enough good things about this album.  It is poppy, punky, and addictive.  More people need to check this album out as these Akron/Cleveland boys really know how to make sweet jams.  They are the next big thing in my mind and I love them all dearly.


Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate 
-Having one of my all time favorite bands release something new in 2016 was pretty rad.  Having one of my all time favorite bands stick to their sound from start to finish and have no indication of slowing down made it that much better.

Nothing
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
-I never thought I would like shoegazing.  To be honest, I really never knew what shoegaze was until I heard this album and I am still not quite sure.  Indie rock and neo-psychadelica mixed with plenty of distortion and emotion made for an album that I could not get out of my head for weeks.  That’s a good thing.

Mean Jeans
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension 
-Mean Jeans are probably one of the most underrated bands out there right now.  This album further proved that.  A modern-day Ramones-like banger.  I loved it.


Bouncing Souls – Simplicity 
-The Souls are like a fine cheese or wine to me.  With age, this band seems to just get better.  Their latest release was just full of punk rock fun.  When I started singing along to the first song during my first listen, I knew I was going to love this album and play it over and over.

Blink 182 - California
Blink 182 – California
-I can’t help it, I got sucked in to the new Blink and I know why…  Matt Skiba.  He was the perfect addition to reinvent this band.

The Avalanches
The Avalanches – Wildflower
-16 years after their debut, The Avalanches came back with an all new release that very well probably took all 16 years to create.  I know some of my pals were not digging this release fully, but I adored it.  It probably helps that the likes of Danny Brown and Biz Marke helped make this album what it is.

Arms Aloft
Arms Aloft – What a Time to be Barely Alive
This is the one album I really need to do a proper review on, but I keep getting sidetracked.  I listen to it all of the time and it is freaking amazing.  Punk rock from the 80s perfectly blended with punk rock from the mid 2000s is one way I can describe these fellows.  The music is infections, the lyrics are fun, and from what I hear the band is pretty cool too.  This kind of sounds like a review, but it is not.  This is just me telling y’all that this album was impressive.

Signals Midwest
Signals Midwest – At This Age
-This is their third release and probably their most tied together, mature material I have heard them create.  They have pushed their limits from a one time local band and are more or less prepping themselves for what’s next to come.  I am proud of these dudes.

Arilss Nancy
Arliss Nancy – Greater Divides
-This band really should be at Lucero levels by now.  They are exceptional at what they do and it can be heard throughout their latest release.

har-mar-superstar
Har Mar Superstar – Best Summer Ever
-Har Mar continues to put out incredible material with each release.  This man is so talented that he drops albums that cover various genres and avoids any and all gimmicky sounds.

NOFX
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
-After all this band has been though, it only makes sense that they dropped a more personal album.  It took me a couple of listens to truly appreciate.  Don’t worry, it’s still crass at times as well as hilarious, but man, that Tony Sly tribute song will put tears in your eyes.

Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar – The Astral We
-This Cleveland hardcore band is just that…  This album was insane yet intelligent, and I loved every moment of it.

the-falcon-gather-up-the-chaps
The Falcon – Gather Up the Chaps
-I love that Dave Hause was on this album.  I love that he had to play ska riffs knowing how much he hates ska because Brendan Kelly decided it was a good idea.  This album was far from serious and a good time all around.

NOTE: I promise you, Red Scare did not pay me for putting so many albums on this list.  They just had a hell of a year with releases…  Toby, I take plastic btw.

I wanted to throw a couple of EPs on here as well:

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman & Tommy Larkins – That’s All We Need at Our Party
Blue Arrow Records and the creative vinyl masters Wax Merge teamed up to put out an insane variant of this 7″.  I was lucky enough to score #100 out of 100.  It’s a thing of beauty plus the tunes on it kick ass.  I love me some Jonathan Richman.  I am sure there are a few left, so snag one if you can.

Throw Shade
Throw Shade – Self-Titled
-I have talented friends who make beautiful music.  This EP is absolute proof.


Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events
-I really did not know what to expect from Reznor and crew with this EP seeing how I just lost interest in their material for the last 10 years.  Man, was I pleasantly surprised.  This EP brought me back to 90s NIN and I can not wait for their full-length to drop in 2017.

bracket
Bracket – The Last Page
-At just over 70 minutes, this is one long-ass song and it’s amazing.  The track keeps it together for the listener and takes them on a punk rock voyage.  My first listed was distracted thanks to my paying gig, but my second listen with headphones on was incredible.

Finally, I know this is a best of list, but it would not be right if I did not make mention of this:

RIP Dag House…
Dag HouseIt goes without saying, sometimes you find yourself in the right situations by chance.  Thanks to an amazing batch of pals who kept Dag House going for years.  Not everyone gets to experience basement shows, and some of that could be by choice, but goddamn, if you are a music fan, basement shows are the best shows.  Dag House threw together a hell of a rager for their last show, and I was happy to be a part of it.  Thanks for the memories Dag.

2016 was a crazy year.  If you’ve made it this far in my post, thanks for sticking around and being so rad.  It is people like you and the bands above that keep me doing what I do.  Be well.

Concert Review: Wagons / Dirt Daubers / Heelsplitter – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH – 09/11/2011

Well Cleveland, I hate to say it, but you all missed out Sunday night on one hell of a show.  I am not one to usually say things like that, but Sunday night was an amazing night of music and chances are, you were not there.  For those of you who were though, I am sure you can all agree that Wagons, The Dirt Daubers, and Heelsplitter all put on a memorable show.

Sunday night was all about Americana, folk, and outlaw country inside the Beachland Tavern.  Making a triumphant return to the best little venue in Cleveland, Henry Wagons and his band Wagons traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia making sure that Cleveland was one of their stops.  About a year ago, Henry Wagons came to the states without his band and played a solo set at the Beachland Tavern.  Later that night Wagons told me that he would bring the rest of his band back soon and play Cleveland again.  The man kept his word.

Local openers Heelsplitter wowed me instantly with their “Frankenbass”, a homemade upright bass with the body being a drum and one string bolted to neck of the instrument.  The two bearded males and cute female act played some awesome songs and had me actually question myself at one time, “are these guys really from Cleveland?”  The band reminded me of Split Lip Rayfield, a band I really adore, but did not completely rip them off.  Frankenbass, banjos, washboard, and no drums provided for a great start to the night.   I loved it when the trio all switched up their instruments and played more tunes.  I witnessed various Frankenbass playing styles  from plucking to beating the hell out of and must say, marveled at its creation.

Up next was the husband / wife act The Dirt Daubers.  Featuring JD Wilkes of the Legendary Shack Shakers, the duo, normally a threesome, admitted that they were missing their bass player and Jess would be filling in on the kick drum.  Their set was full of rockabilly, blues, country goodness and it was just two people on the stage playing the music.  Never mind the fact that Jess was dressed in quite the adorable dress, she kicked that drum all through their set in high heels as if she had done it many times prior.  Laughs were shared by the duo and crowd she Jess admitted a couple songs in that “this is fucking hard” and soon said that if she kept playing the kick drum she was going to have one Popeye leg.

JD looked like Buddy Holly in a way with his banjo and harmonicas strapped to him.  Throughout their set, they played songs from their upcoming new album titled Wake Up Sinners. I could not help but be amazed when JD would rip a harmonica out of one of the holsters attached to him and would play it.  I was more impressed when JD grabbed his washboard and showed the crowd his secret to not using a strap to secure the washboard – he stuck the legs in his front pockets.

The duo played a few more songs and covered Elvis as well as Gene Autry.  Towards the end of their set played a fast paced jam featuring a kazoo.  It was the best kazoo playing I have ever heard.

I wanted to hear more from the couple, and I think they wanted to play more, but had to kindly exit the stage and make way for the headliners.

It turned out a lot of people came to see The Dirt Daubers over Wagons and I thought for a moment some people might pick up and leave before the main act, but Jess told the crowd how amazing and fun they were the other night.  She even stated that Henry dedicated each of the seven songs on his set to each of the seven people that were in the bar the night before.  I would estimate that there were about 20 people in the tavern by the time Wagons took stage.

Opening with “Shake & Tumble” off the bands brand new release, Wagons turned the heads of anyone who was not looking at the stage.  It was not all business for the band as Henry talked to the crowd throughout songs confessing he knows “what a big deal primetime television is” and admitted that he has been powered by buttered vegetables for the last couple of days.

Henry mentioned Cracker Barrel quite a few times.  The man loves his American cuisine.  He even took a moment to ask the crowd where he could get some bacon ice cream and seemed disappointed when someone screamed back IHOP.

While playing “Save Me”, Henry left his band behind and jumped into the crowd headband and all.  Masking the best of his surroundings, he joked with the crowd how the band was probably sick of him and soon returned to his brethren and played “Never Been To Spain”.  I heard Henry play this song last year at his solo performance, but when the band backed him up this time, I was just floored with how awesome it sounded.  The band then moved into Wagons’ version of “The Gambler”, where Henry told the crowd that he wanted to be the next Kenny Rogers.

Before the band broke into “Driving Home” Henry asked for tips on getting to Chicago.  Someone mentioned toll booths and, of course, Henry found humor and asked “tall boobs?”

The rest of the band was included in discussions as well and props were given to This Way Out, the sweet shop that lies below the Beachland.  Once of the band members actually bought a shirt there prior to the show.  They did not say why, but after the show I found out he did that because he was wearing a Cincinnati Bangles shirt.  He was not trying to be crude, he seriously had no idea.  Apparently someone yelled at him before the show started.

Hoping to hear more songs by Wagons, they played more personal “Moon Into The Sun” and then closed the night with “Willie Nelson”, a track about, you guessed it…  The soon crowd was all singing along “he likes some salt and pepper with his evening meal” with the band and soon after the set came to an end.

There could have been two people or two hundred in the tavern Sunday night.  The band did not care one bit and played their hearts out to all those who attended.  The people that were lucky enough to witness that which is Wagons showed their approval throughout the entire set.  Ironically one of the guitarists told everyone that he had played a ton of shows and Cleveland was one of the best shows he ever played.  He was dead serious too.  After everything was said and done I was chatting with the band and it was either Mark or Chad that told me he was dead serious about what he said.  He loved the tavern that he just played in and was glad to have been able to do so.  They all told me they would be back again one day to rock out.  I know that is not a lie either.  I see big things coming from this Aussie outlaw county band.

Henry Wagons Checks In…

It’s no secret, Broken Headphones loves Henry Wagons and his band Wagons (two consecutive posts might hint at that…).  The guy beyond hilarious and his band dishes out some of the best outlaw country/rock I’ve heard in a long time. 

I just hammered out a review of the latest Wagons release the other day for your reading pleasure and decided I might as well touch base with Henry through the magical forces of email.  Currently Henry and his band are touring North America in support of their new release titled Rumble, Shake and Tumble.  Here’s what he had to say:

Henry, what brings you back to the states?

My global brainwashing mission is in full effect! I eventually want to take over the world with one of those swirly patterns on a TV transmission. Playing music with my band is the first step.

Were you able to bring your band along this time?

I have brought 3 stinky dudes with me.

How has the tour been so far?

It’s been great. Pretty much Seattle and Canada so far. I’m still bracing myself for the rest. I want to try as many weird burgers as I can.

I understand you flew to Toronto Monday night in a small plane with old men. How did that go?

It was a little bumpy and a little grumpy (old men).

How’s the tour been this round? Did that stupid hurricane affect you at all?

The only hurricane style event we have faced was the powerful massage shower in our Toronto hotel room.

What can someone expect to see at a Wagons show?

A lot of pent up energy expressed from many hours in the van and in airport customs queues. All the bodily fluids that are retained within our bodies from a aeroplane pressurised cabin come out on stage in the form of blood sweat and tears.

Most importantly, are you rocking the headband?

You know it.


Wagons are actually playing the Beachland Tavern this Sunday! Tickets are only $8.  As I have mentioned previously in posts, Wagons are already big deal in Australia.  8 bucks…do it!

Wagons ‘Rumble, Shake and Tumble’ USA/Canada Tour
Sep 03 | Bumbershoot Festival – Seattle
Sep 04 | Railway Club – Vancouver
Sep 06 | Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto
Sep 07 | Zaphod Beeblebrox – Ottawa
Sep 08 | Rockwood Hall – NYC
Sep 09 | Union Hall – NYC
Sep 10 | World Café Live – Philadelphia
Sep 11 | Beachland Tavern – Cleveland
Sep 13 | Hide Out – Chicago
Sep 14 | The Basement – Nashville
Sep 15 | Hangar 9 – Carbondale
Sep 16 | Off Broadway – St Louis
Sep 17 | Hi-Tone – Memphis
Sep 19 | At the Earl – Atlanta
Sep 21 | Hotel Café – LA

Album Review: Wagons – Rumble, Shake and Tumble

Henry Wagons and I met by chance one day last September.  He was an opening act for Those Darlins that night and I remember the tall Aussie armed with a headband and acoustic guitar impressed me beyond belief.  His set filled up the tavern that night with outlaw folk/country jams making me an instant fan.  After his set I learned that Henry Wagons hailed from Melbourne, Australia, and actually left his band, Wagons, back home as it was too tough to fly everyone to the states.  Even though they were a pretty big deal back home, Henry Wagons took it upon himself to spread their music to the states.  I left that night with a copy of a Wagons CD titled Rise and Fall of Goodtown, a sweet towel and new love for an Australian band.

I tried my hardest to see Wagons play at SXSW in Austin, TX, this past spring, but thanks to a botched flight, I did not get there in time.  Rumor has it, Wagons turned a bunch of heads with a memorable set in which they played new material off a new album.  Needless to say, I was bummed out that I missed my chance to see Wagons and hear some of the upcoming tunes.

Luckily for me and many other fans, Wagons dropped their fourth all new release titled Rumble, Shake and Turn on Thirty Tigers toward the end of the summer.  The album is country, it’s rock, it’s even a little cabaret and sure as hell is full of outlaw tendencies.  When listening to Wagons, you get a sense you have heard the music before not just from your father’s collection, but also from your grandfathers collection you might have been exposed to at a young age.  The band takes generations of music and blends it perfectly into their own style guaranteed to turn some heads.

Opening track “Downlow” is very Tom Petty sounding from the get go with lyrics that almost could emulate Wagons’ very own wit and charm.  “I Blew It”, a quite addicting track to listen to, immediately followed full of outlaw country styles as well as some Elvis-sounding growling within.  The music video as seen below is pretty damn amazing as well.  “Moon Into The Sun” was about as country twang as any track on the album gets with a more sensitive Wagons declaring “my life has been a fucking mess without you.”.  Wagons’ singing on this track easily brought the listener back to the days of Twitty, Williams, Jennings, Haggard, and even a starving young Cash and seemingly did not sound like he was even trying to.

The ever catchy tribute to Willie Nelson,  properly titled “Willie Nelson”, deserved multiple plays on account of how fun it was to listen to.  Comparing Nelson to other greats, I loved how Henry Wagons shifted his accent  (“Willie Nel-sun!”) in a clear comical attempt to mess with the listener yet pay a homage to a country great.  “He likes some salt and pepper with his evening meal” is repeated over and over by Wagons about his favorite musician in the country music business and as much of a tribute the song was, it was just hilarious to listen to.  I would love to know what Nelson’s reaction was about this track.

“Love Is Burning” was an unexpected track on the album that was more rock and roll than anything.  “My Daydreams” was a thoughtful track spanning around romance that easily has the ability to swoon.  Wagons’ had no problem recalling the outlaw greats throughout the track as the band backs him up.  “Save Me” was a simple upbeat tune with easy sing-a-long qualities, more of that country twang and even a little blues thrown in.  “Follow The Leader” moved along with almost a train track rhythm only to jump rail and turn psychedelic for a moment.  i did not know what to think about this song.  It definitely strayed away from the rest.  “Marylou” ended the album and at the very end, Wagons closes out the album with a sigh making me wonder how personal that track really was to Wagons.

Rumble, Shake and Tumble was a great album from start to finish full of American genres with a modest Australian twist.  Wagons and company pull off yet another impressive release that more people need to check out.  Wagons has quite the fan base back home and I am pretty sure before long, we Americans will be picking up on their talent.

Wagons is actually back on a US tour in support of the new release and will be stopping at the Beachland Tavern in Cleveland this Sunday Sept. 11th.  Tickets are only $8 and if you fathom yourself a folk/country/rock fan, you would be doing yourself a favor seeing them live.  Not only is the music good live, but Wagons himself is a pretty candid guy.  Don’t be lame.  Get up there Sunday night.

Album Review: Social Distortion – Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes

Punk rock icons/godfathers Social Distortion are back with an all new album entitled Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes.  After seven long years, Mike Ness and crew have released a self-produced album on Epitaph Records.  This is the first time the band has taken production into their own hands in their 30+ year career.

Before I go any further, I have to confess that I have been a life long fan of Social D.  Sure, I am sure there are a lot of us out there who can say that, it is almost hard not to admit that.  I was introduced to Social D at a young age thanks to some cool kids and was hooked ever since.  They were one of the bands that helped me identify the genre of music that I liked most – punk rock, however; they were the band that also got me into country and rockabilly.  Over the years they were part of the soundtrack to my life and still are to this day.  They will be one of those bands that stay with me for the rest of my existence.

So with that said and done, let’s talk about Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes.  This is the band’s seventh release in their career and the first on the independent label Epitaph Records.  The major difference in this release over all the others is that Mike Ness produced the album himself giving him the opportunity to do things his way for once.

Opening track “Road Zombie” was a two-minute instrumental piece of awesomeness.  It was almost like a teaser to any listener who has been waiting seven years for Ness and crew.

A less gritty-sounding Ness sang on the following track entitled “California (Hustle and Flow)”.  With female backup vocals that could have fit on any Springsteen track in the past, the track was more rock n roll sounding than I was expecting and honestly, I was impressed.  The smooth and easy going track still had that Social D vibe I was hoping for including a certain ball and chain reference.  Full of soul and a certain twangy feel made this song even more impressive to listen to.

“Gimmie The Sweet And Lowdown” brought back that sound I was looking for previously.  With lyrics that begged to be memorized and a guitar riff that won’t be leaving my mind anytime soon.  The gangster “Machine Gun Blues” was a stand-out track thanks to the old school feel with Ness just tearing up his Les Paul on this track towards the end.

“Bakersfield” really paid helm to the country and blues that Ness grew up on with a clear mention of Buck Owens.  Whether or not the song was based upon a true story, the ending carried a certain hope of return.   The track has been played live for a couple of years now by Ness during his solo tours and by Social D with good reason – it is amazing.

“Writing On The Wall” hinted heavily of Lynyrd Skynyrd (seriously, I was waiting for “Freebird” to interrupt the song), but once I got listening to it I could not help but identify with the heartfelt lyrics like “they say if you love someone you gotta let them go. and if they return to you that’s surely how you’ll know.”

“Can’t Take It With You” was another rock n roll track guaranteed to make you move.  As if Ness’ singing was not good enough, throw in some more lively female vocals, barroom piano playing, and just some bad ass guitar jamming to make for one fun song.

Closing up the album was “Still Alive”,  a track that almost defined the life of Mike Ness and all that is Social D.  This was without a doubt my favorite track off the album.  I loved the lyric “and I’m here to make my stand with a guitar in my hand.”  Poetic justice at its finest.

Upon my first listen of Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes, I think I was a little too focused on looking for the Social D sound that I had become so accustomed to.  I had concerns on how clean the album sounded and not once thought for a moment that maybe this is what Ness wanted to do now that he had full control.  After a couple of listens though my opinion changed.  Not only did I appreciate the collaboration of references throughout the rock n roll album, but I also dug the lyrics Ness put together; lyrics I intend to grow up with further in my life.  The album is solid from start to finish and I doubt there will be many Social D fans out there who will disagree.