Category Archives: Acoustic

Album Review: Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds – Keep Walkin’ Pal

I am not going to blow smoke up Brendan Kelly‘s ass, so I’ll just say it: This guy is fascinating in a  weird as hell way.

He is more clever than you’ll ever aspire to be and he’s much more of a musician than I think he is credited for.

I feel like the smoke is blowing even though I said I wouldn’t.

I do not know him personally and he sure as hell does not know me, but I can tell you I admire him for his comedic approach to life as well as standing his ground for his beliefs.  Then there’s the countless Tweets from @Nihilist_Arbys that he finally fessed up to being behind.

Normally he fronts Chicago’s The Lawrence Arms as well as toys with The Falcon like once every 10 years.  He also has a solo project called Brendan Kelly and the Wandering Birds and let me tell you, it’s different in a good way kind of like putting A-1 sauce on over-easy eggs.

Recently Kelly dropped Keep Walkin’ Pal on the ever awesome Red Scare Records and it’s not really a solo album, but a collective release featuring Kelly and a bunch of his pals including Alkaline Trio’s Derek Grant and Atlas Studio’s Dan Tinkler making for a sporadic listen with no agenda.

Album title track “Keep Walkin’ Pal” had Kelly and his signature raspy voice just spilling brutal truth with lines like “I blacked out 17 of my best years.”

“Shitty Margarita” was this poppy punk jam complete with synthesizer that was all about what extreme amounts of sugar and tequila can do to you good and bad.  Not going to lie, I dug this track a lot mostly due to the music.  It was fun even though the lyrics might have brought back 1 or 7 bad memories at Chi-Chi’s.

“Huggz” should be a theme song for Kelly.  The 80s-ish heavy track was all about simple affections, at least I think it was.  Kelly was pretty damn stern about getting them to function and how music he likes them – even from Sergio.  (Remember I said he was clever?)

“Black Cat Boy” was one of my favorite tracks on the album.  With Kelly’s signature singing over the electronic keyboard and beats, this song was just one that stuck in my head quickly.

Best track on the album by far was “The Ballad of Buffalo Bill”.  From singing about putting the lotion on the skin again to having a dog barking, this song was beyond entertaining.  Clearly you need to know what Kelly is referencing to fully appreciate.  I’m glad he tucked it in here.  (I’m clever too you know)

As much as I wished “I’m the Man” was an Anthrax cover, it was not.  This closing track was pretty much all the drunk and high thoughts packed into 3 minutes and 22 seconds.  It was a bizarre track with shoutouts to Mr. Clean and excellent backup vocals with a digital beat Daft Punk would be jealous of.  I’m not quite sure what the hell was going on there, but I like to think I enjoyed it.

Overall, Keep Walkin’ Pal was a solid listen.  Kelly and pals once again have managed to entertain and confuse me at the same time.  If that was the intent, awesome, but if not, maybe I am getting too old for this shit.  Anyways, check out the album, it was pretty great.

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.

EP Review: Face To Face – Hold Fast (Acoustic Sessions)

It seems like every punk band out there is dropping acoustic albums as of late.  This facade may come off as lazy or desperate to some, but when stripped down right, it makes so much sense.  Still, it is easy to just dismiss them because of how many are out there.

I have to give it to Unwritten Law though who first captured my fascination with the whole punk rock bands doing acoustic renditions of their songs years back.  I remember hearing Music in High Places and becoming obsessed instantly.  Then Rancid busted out an acoustic set in front of me live once at one of their shows and I adored it.  Perhaps this aging punker just enjoys slowing down things a little bit.

When I heard Face To Face was releasing an EP of acoustic versions of their songs over the years, I was nervous.  Mind you Face To Face is easily one of my all time favorite bands from my 90s, I was worried that it would not go well, but I couldn’t have been so wrong.

Hold Fast simply is songs from Face To Face’s 30+ years (with a slight hiatus) career put into an acoustic style.  Perhaps sparked from their “Econo-Live Tour”, the band decided it was their turn to try.  Actually, Face To Face did acoustic sets years back as I remember a friend’s band opening for them and quickly having to learn how to relearn their songs so they could stay on the bill with them – Back to this EP though.

Hold Fast is listed as an EP, but at 33 minutes, it could easily be an album.  I was impressed to see 10 songs tracked on the Fat Wreck Chords release and was more impressed with where they call came from on their discography.

“All For Nothing” started off the EP with an alt-country twangy version of the catchy Laugh Now, Laugh Later track that I am sure Lucero fans would totally appreciate.  I quickly realized after this song alone the amount of time put in by Face To Face to transformed them into a completely different style.

“Disconnected” was the song I was most worried to hear.  This radio-friendly track that caught the most attention on Big Choice was part of the soundtrack to my life in the late 90s and I’m still quite fond of it to this day.  I held off listening to this song at first and waited until the album came out to take it in.  I had nothing to worry about.  This song was perfected transformed from a pop punk jam to an acoustic masterpiece.  I loved everything about this song from Keith’s slowed down singing to the backing vocals and even the guitar playing.

I was kind of shocked to hear “Keep Your Chin Up” the EP as it was a new song, but as soon as the chorus started I immediately understood.  It fit perfectly.

“Don’t Turn Away” was completely dissected and put together as one hell of a track.  The lyrics remain the same, but everything else about it screams alt-country with even some rockabilly qualities to it.  This was such an enjoyable track to rediscover though a different genre.  Just wait for that guitar solo.

“Aok” was another version I just absorbed and adored instantly.  This is one of those other songs that was part of the soundtrack of my life and hearing it on a different caliber was just so appreciated.

I can not say every track on the EP blew me away as some were at status quo like “Ordinary” and even “Velocity”, but I did not skip past a single song.  Nothing was completely unbearable which led me to believe the band truly gave it their all.

I truly feel Face To Face did this for the sake of trying something new and not looking for a quick paycheck (leave that to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes).  These So. Cal. punks have matured so much since back in the day and clearly have moved past their punk rock roots musically.  I really think people who never were into Face To Face are going to hear this and become fans of these renderings.  I am also hoping they just decided to make new music in this style.  I have the feeling it would be amazing.

Don’t dismiss this EP at all folks.  Face To Face is far more talented than you think, especially if you just assume they are just some aging punk rock band looking for a quick payday.

The Most Underrated Rock ‘n Roll Artist in the Past 5 Years – The White Buffalo

[It’s been a while since one of my pals has guest blogged on this here ol’ site, but when Frank reached out to me recently with something he wrote asking me to check it out, I just had to share it.  Great read by a great dude. – Brian]

As we gingerly step into 2018, our world has become consumed by politics.  Our news are politics, our “Funny-Shows” are politics, our comedians are politics, and with all of this, our world has become a house divided.  Before all this though, there was an even greater divide happening in a much more important arena, the music arena.

Over the past five years, rock ‘n roll has been the passenger on a downward trend, taking it further and further from the main-stream, and closer to obscurity. Some would debate that the greatest reason for this is the general malaise and declining quality of the rock ‘n roll form, while others place their bets behind the “Only Big Enough for One of Us” philosophy regarding the rap vs. rock debate.  Despite all the bluster and hot air one thing is quite factual, that as of last year, it is documented that hip hop has taken over the head of the pack in the music world.

With this seismic change in the musical landscape, artists that should have been on the fast track to super-stardom and all that entails have been pushed down into what was characteristically deemed the “independent” group.  Artists that should get the elusive radio play and playing to thousands of people at a time are lucky to get on college radio and play the back rooms of the established venues.  Those that should be in the limelight, have transitioned into unknown or the tombstone title of “niche”.

One artist that doesn’t belong in any of these secondary groups, one artists who stands on musical talent rather than glitz and bling, the most underrated artist in recent memory is The White Buffalo.

The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith, can undoubtedly be placed at the top of the list of underrated artists in the shrinking rock genre of today’s musical society.  With vocals that range from haunting, as heard in “The Whistler” and “Come Join the Murder”, and travel up the spectrum to romantic, spotlighted in “Love Song #1”  and “Come On Love Come On In”, all the way to a tone that could be called soulful and introspective, divinely illustrated in “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or upbeat, like “Avalon”.

Smith’s music cannot be classified and gently placed into a nice tight fitting box.  It can go from straight rock ‘n roll to a little bit of twang, from bordering country to in your face melodic yelling.  And maybe there’s the rub – because with the push he’s gotten, it doesn’t make sense that he’s being pushed down into the lands of obscurity.

Case in point, ask the average, run of the mill, rock ‘n roll fan, what is the most popular show that they have watched in the last 10 years, that they still watch on Netflix, the show that had one of the best soundtracks ever, that they owned the t-shirts, the hoodies, the hats, and the merch, that they watched or recorded or DVRed EVERY TIME IT WAS ON TELEVISION, and most of them will say the same thing: Sons of Anarchy.  And this juggernaut of a show, Sons of Anarchy, was the first introduction for the White Buffalo to the masses.

Smith’s music accompanied some of the most disturbing, some of the most poignant, some of the most influential, and some of the most powerful scenes of the entire show.  When Clay gets his back tattoo blacked out in shame, enter “The Whistler”, or when Tara, Jax’s wife realizes her negative transformation and pulls a gun on Jax and then leaves him, scored by “Oh Darlin’ What Have I Done”, or arguably the most powerful moment of the show, when Jax rides his bike to certain doom in the series finale, there was only one song that could properly usher this show out and push the main character off of this mortal coil properly, and it was “Come Join the Murder” by the White Buffalo.

Smith had a spotlight shone on him from one of the most heavily watched shows of the decade, his music led in scenes that there was no going back from, and his music was the prototype for the entire soundtrack, and yet for some reason he is not shining his Grammys or counting his movie credits.  And there is no reason for that.  Other than the fact that he has been criminally underrated by the powers that be in the music industry, and this fact is in fact, a crime.

Since his contributions to SOA, he has not rested on his laurels, nor has he let the show define him.  He has put together three stellar albums: Shadows, Greys, and Evil WaysLove and the Death of Damnation, and most recently Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights, which illustrates his stunning mix of the rock ‘n roll, deep, deep blues, and outlaw country.

Smith continues to prove that he is actually the preeminent musical story-teller in music today.  The White Buffalo’s music gives listeners a constant reminder that although one might look brash and gruff on the outside, the inside can be a cauldron of emotions and feelings and thoughts and ideas.  Every album is a different trip to a different place, exploring different roads to get to the destination.

The masses are missing some of the greatest rock ‘n roll that has ever been produced, and what is ever more disappointing than that fact, is that they don’t even know it.  The White Buffalo entrusts personal stories to the listener, that many people could relate to and enjoy.  The White Buffalo is the everyman, with a badass growl, a tender soul.  He’s someone you’d have a beer with anytime and the most underrated rock ‘n roll musician in recent history.

Seek him out, watch him, listen to him, go to his concerts – just do yourself a favor and enjoy his work.

-FS

 

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.