Category Archives: Folk

BHP Best of 2020 List

If there’s anything to say about 2020, it is this: I miss live shows. I miss seeing local bands play small bars and I miss cramming into over-priced corporately owned venues to see sold out shows.

I know I am not the only one who says this to themselves daily. This year has not the the greatest by any means given the current situation.

I’ve tried hard to do things on this blog when I had some free time and want to once again thank everyone who has offered up something for review or checked out any of the posts I tossed together usually afterhours while everyone in my household was fast asleep.

I cannot end this year without pushing out a Best Of List. I know I am cutting it close this time. I feel this was the year I really tried to listen to more artists I never heard of before and honestly, I was impressed with tons of releases. I started with 10 and said screw that as all these bands that dropped impressive releases need to be shared. As usual, I will probably add to it after this goes live.

Thanks for keeping me going y’all. I do appreciate it.

BEST OF 2020

(in no particular order)

The Avalanches: We Will Always Love You Album Review | Pitchfork

The Avalanches – We Will Always Love You

I have loved this band since they started 20 years back. They have a way with mixing samples appropriately. I especially grew fond of this one because it was more of a journey than a collaboration of sound.

Get Dead - Dancing with the Curse

Get Dead – Dancing with the Curse

This release is raw, unhinged, and perfect in every way possible. I can only imagine what these dudes sound like on stage… This was probably the most listened to album of the year by yours truly. I cannot get enough of it.

Shuffle and Bang - Island Bop

Shuffle and Bang – Island Pop

Island Pop was the surprise drop of 2020 that I needed to distract me from all the bad. This is a soulful delight that I’ve gotten lost in many times and literally found myself in a better mood because of it. If there was one band I would love to see play live currently, Shuffle and Bang are my top choice.

Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Run The Jewels – RTJ4

This duo does no bad. I am not shocked that this was one of my fav releases this year. They always entertain. I am bummed I missed seeing them play with Rage this past summer and only can hope the rescheduled date stands.

Broadway Calls - Sad in the City

Broadway Calls – Sad in the City

This pop-punk release is going to be something I probably listen to for the rest of my life. No joke, this album started off as strong as it ended and became an instant favorite of mine.

The Lawrence Arms - Skeleton Coast

The Lawrence Arms – Skeleton Coast

This album is damn near perfect and I know I am not the only who who thinks this. Why go on about these guys when everyone knows how much they rule.

Hum - Inlet

HUM – Inlet

I have waited over 20 years for Hum to release new material and this did not disappoint one bit. After each listen I find a stronger appreciation for what they have created.

Maxwell Stern - Impossible Sum

Maxwell Stern – Impossible Sum

An outstanding effort by someone who I’m lucky to call a pal. I have watched him mature over the past 10 years and expect things to get even better as he continues onward. Now hurry up and drop Signals Midwest LP4 already!

Be Well - The Weight And The Cost

Be Well – The Weight and the Cost

Catchy as hell, melodic hardcore fun. With the roster in this lineup, it was not shocking how killer the entire album was and how things built up all the way to the end. This was one that made the blood flow as well as the feelings emerge.

SkyTigers - Eulorgy

SkyTigers – Eulorgy

A release by some Boston punks who’ve been at it for 10 years now. This debut clearly needed to drop during this shit year. It’s powerful, angry, and just insane. The opening track alone proves that.

Slug Fest - Animal

Slug Fest – Animal

Cleveland surf punk rock may not be something you knew existed, but I assure you it rules. This album is full of jams and guarantees a good time. This is one band I can not wait to see in-person.

the House of Wills - "true crime"

The House of Wills – “true crime’

This lo-fi release by Cleveland’s JV is everything to me. I fell in love with it upon first listen and love how they put their heart and soul into it. This is the one release that deserves all the attention. This falls somewhere between Fred Thomas and Daniel Johnston if I am being totally honest. Was JV going for that? Not sure, but it’s more real than most stuff that dropped this year.

Stolen Wheelchairs - The America

Stolen Wheelchairs – The America

These guys are about as punk as they get. If their band name is shocking to you, wait until you listen to this straight up punk rock disaster. I loved every moment of it.

Bob Mould - Blue Hearts

Bob Mould – Blue Hearts

This may very well be the best thing Mould has done in quite some time. I find comfort through Mould as he doesn’t back down as the years progress. Do not sit on this one.

Brain Cave - Stuck in the Mud

Brain Cave – Stuck in the Mud

Brain Cave’s debut rules on so many levels. I have spoken highly about this release to many folk since it dropped because it’s that damn good. This was my go to when I just could not decide with to listen to at any given moment.

I Am The Avalanche - DIVE

I Am The Avalanche – Dive

I’ve been a fan of these guys for a while now, but this album is probably my favorite to date. Punk rock at its finest.

Somerset Thrower - Paint My Memory

Somerset Thrower – Paint My Memory

This release brought back the best 90s punk rock vibes. I honestly never got into these guys prior, but clearly that changed. Excellent throughout.

Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone

Spanish Love Songs – Brave Faces Everyone

This band can bum me out so much and I love them for it. Easily one of my fav acts out there and this release certainly showcases why.

The Dead Krazukies - Icarus

The Dead Krazukies – Icarus

I do not expect a ton of folk to know who this act is yet, but I have a feeling they will in time. All I could say to myself the first time I heard them was, “holy shit.” This is power punk rock without over-exaggerating it. You can tell the band loves playing and there wasn’t a single lull in the release. I can not recommend them enough.

Don Yoder - Everything is Nothing

Don Yoder – Everything is Nothing

This release came out of nowhere from a guy from another Cleveland band who wanted to make a country album. The result is an incredible, non-gimmicky grouping of songs that, unless you knew who wrote them, you’d think a seasoned alt-country musician wrote them.

Rope - Crimson Youth

Rope – Crimson Youth

Tossing the Tiny God Inc. released cassette cover here as they are the reason I even got into these guys. This is the post-grunge, hardcore album I needed this year. Talk about a brutal release…

Red City Radio - Paradise

Red City Radio – Paradise

This band continues to get better with each release. This one in particular was a solid listen that I’m currently obsessed with.

20/20 Vision (Anti-Flag album) - Wikipedia

Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision

Totally forgot to add this one to the list initially. This political, punk rock stand against the government is as impactful as it is catchy. This band might be getting up there in age, but my god, they have no intention of slowing down or steering away from their cause.

TRVSS – New Distances

Grungy, noisy post-punk rage- rippers are what this release is all about. This Pittsburgh act deserves some serious attention.

Guilty Pleasure of the Year:

Machine Gun Kelly - Tickets to My Downfall

Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

I won’t lie, I played the ever-lasting hell out of this. It is a pop-punk, catchy release and I am probably too old to enjoy it as much as I have. I never was a MGK fan before he collaborated with Travis Barker, but stranger things have happened.

Best Covers Album of the Year:

NOFX / Frank Turner - West Coast vs. Wessex – Fat Wreck Chords

NOFX & Frank Turner – West Coast vs. Wessex

I can not tell you how stoked I was when I learned of this concept coming to life. Two of my favorite acts covering each other’s tunes in their own style. The finished product was far from some speedy effort. Both parties did an excellent job with their own renditions.

Just check out the video below for proof:

Like I said, I am sure I will be adding a few more here and there. 2020 really was full of good music by great artists. I think I am most impressed with the fact that even though everything had to shut down because of a global pandemic, musicians did everything possible to continue creating.

With that said, artists and bands are still struggling financially because of not being able to tour. I know they are not the only ones, but if you have the means to, support musicians by buying their physical or digital release and skip the popular streaming services. You know damn well they don’t make shit from streaming.

Hell, one up yourself and get some sweet swag while you are at it. If one of the bands I spoke about sounds interesting, check them out, and if you love it, buy it. Anything helps right now.

Thanks for reading and I sincerely hope that I enlightened you to 1 or 2 new bands that you will adore just like I did. Happy New Year y’all!

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.