Tag Archives: Country

Album Review: Restorations – Restorations

It just occurred to me this evening that I have not once talked about a band that I adore.  This is one of those bands I feel everyone should have heard about by now, and for all I know, you have.  I was introduced to them a few years back and pretty much have adored them since.  The band I speak so highly of (I know the anticipation is killing you) is none other than Philadelphia’s post-punk indie rock outfit Restorations.  Seriously, how in the hell did I NOT review these guys before?

Yes, I am a wee bit late on this one, but you know what?  Screw it.  So what if their self-titled debut album dropped in 2011 on Tiny Engines and was repressed on vinyl last summer because so many vinyl junkies ate it up?  I feel the need to share this amazing group in hopes that they score one more fan per my recommendation and I am pretty certain that will be happening.

The moment “Nonlocality” started with the laid back intro, I just knew I was in for something good.  The gritty, raw opener brought a certain country folk feel to my ears and then everything changed for the better when the singing started and the hypnotizing guitar solo floated in the background.  With just one song in, I was sitting there pointing to it as my favorite.  “West River” followed carrying that same intensity that impressed me from the get go.  The songs really reminded me what would happen if Goo Goo Dolls and Hot Water Music collaborated, yeah I know, weird.

“Canadian Club” had an Against Me! feel to it at the start but soon mellowed into a great jam.  I really loved vocalist Jon Loudon’s raspy singing style on this song but have the feeling that this track was intended to be heard live by all.  “Sideways House” leaned more towards a 90s alt-rock that was welcomed to my ears.  “Broken Vacuum”, I feel, showcased the band as musicians well.  Hearing the distorted bass at the beginning  joined with the drums and guitars just moments later sounded so good.  So many songs these days are written so quickly that you sometimes miss hearing a well put together track.  The same goes for the closing track “When You’re Older”.  It was not just an end song, it was a crowning achievement by the band and any listener will be able to hear that.

Restorations combines the right bunch of genres of music including rock, country, and punk making for one hell of a listen.  You say like Elliot Brood?  Listen to Restorations.  Lucero?  Listen to Restorations.  Gaslight Anthem?  Yeah, listen to them, I seriously doubt you will regret it and if you do, sorry.  I am surprised this album is not bigger than it already is and I can not wait to hear what they come out with next.  I am predicting something amazing.

Album Review: Tim Barry – 40 Miler

If I had to describe Tim Barry in one word, that word would be “real”.  This former punk rocker turned folk rock hero is about as real as they get and I am not just saying that.  He is a talented musician and a wholesome human who just lives life day by day.  Barry, who used to front the legendary Richmond punk rock act Avail, has been going his own route since about 2004 playing solo shows all over the world.

In his fifth release, 40-Miler, Barry seemingly has taken his acoustic guitar and played from his hard-working heart.  The album was put out by Chucksaah Records.

It’s an honest and to the point album where Barry talks about his previous involvements in bands, travels, and personal reflections on the life he has lived.  The album leans more country driven than that of past releases by the man known to hitch rides on trains the old-fashioned way.  The result is hands down his best release I have ever heard to date.  It is safe to say that Barry may have created his own masterpiece without even thinking about it.

“Wezeltown” starting off the album with a soulful yet poignant Barry declaring “I pity the beautiful as the beautiful, they do pity me.”  Fueled by hand-clapping and realization, this song was more than an opening track, it was a preach aimed at all the hardworking folk out there who don’t take everything for granted.  “Driver Pull” was more like a personal conversation between the listener and Barry on a front porch moments before he hitches a ride out of town.

The title track “40-Miler” continued with the Barry’s storytelling and did not disappoint.  Reminiscing about his traveling times in boxcars and tour vans, Barry also states he has “nothing but miles and miles” to continue on.  I especially loved when Barry declared ” I’d rather stay broke than play fake ass shows.”

“Adele and Hell” was heavy on the country rock and perfect in every way.  The duet between Barry and longtime friend and local Richmond recording artist Julie Karr was a match made in heaven.  Karr gets down on this track with Barry that sings about a broken relationship.  The harmonica playing aside the twangy guitar accompanies the signing so well.  Hands down, this is one of the better tracks on the album.  I was floored when I heard it.

Barry pays tribute one of his bad ass friends who plays in Lucero as well as in Glossary in the track titled “T. Beene”.  This track, to me, was the country answer to NOFX’s “Punk Guy” with Barry recalling some crazy ass memories of a talented man who had lead an interesting life.

My favorite track on the album, “Fine Foods Market”, actually pokes fun at Barry as well as many of his fans who have “ironic mustaches” and drink PBR.  I loved when Barry sung “oh look there goes another hipster kid”.  He may have been making fun about everything, but was also quick to wonder how it all came about.

“Amen” was another amazing track full of Barry’s personal attributions and thanks accompanied by harmonica and acoustic guitar.  From singing about breaking his hand in Ottawa to almost making it to every scheduled show, Barry sang about his life on the road and even admitted sometimes he would rather just be home.  I especially got a kick out of the part where he praised a certain New Jersey band for letting him hitch a ride on their tour bus.  It was not just a song sung, it was a celebration of all the hard work Barry has ever done.  “Kick me in the head, watch me get right back up again” ends the album as almost a promise from Barry proving he is in this for the long run.

In a recent interview I did with Barry, he stated he actually erased 40-Miler from his he memory once it was completed.  He said , “when I am done with an album I step away from it.  This helps me gain perspective and hear it freshly.”  He called it a “recording detox”  and continued with, “I never have an intention with my albums. They come out the way they come out.”  How can you not love this man?

Tim Barry is currently touring in support of 40-Miler.  It is not a show to be missed.

Album Review: Lucero – Women & Work

I am sure it’s pretty safe to say that Luerco is a band name that many have you have at least heard of.  Maybe you are a huge fan of them already, or perhaps you have been meaning to check them out.  For all I know, you have no idea who I am talking about. 

My point is, if you are reading this, you now are aware of a band who calls themselves Lucero and I hope by the time you finish reading this mess of works you check them out if you have not done so already.

The boys in Lucero, for those of you who do not know, hail from Memphis, TN, and have been mixing their punk rock roots with their Southern style creating some entertaining  country and indie folk rock music since the late 90s.  Recently the band dropped their ninth release in their career titled Women & Work.

The honky-tonk “On My Way Downtown” started the album right with the pure intention of getting the girl to come out and have some drinks.  “I know the last time we drank I was a little less than behaved” was sung by Ben Nichols and rubbed off as an honest apology.  The horn-heavy title track “Women and Work” followed with a let’s-drink-this-bad-day-away-feeling.  I loved the repeating lyrics: “Come on kid, let’s drink ’em down.  Kid don’t let it get ya down.”

“Juniper” was one of my favorite songs on the album.  It was just a fun upbeat Southern country / rock track perfect for getting weird to.  The combination of horns and twang was perfect.  I could only imagine the appearance (Read: “A dark-eyed beauty and a dangerous thing”) of the woman this song surrounded. 

I found myself enjoying “Who You Waiting On?” mainly with the story told.  It was a simple jam but the lyrics provided a clear image of a guy trying his luck at picking up a lone lady during last call. 

The sorrowful “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” captured perfectly that which is called heart break.  I felt the pain in that song and would be lying if I said I never felt that way once in my life. 

“When I Was Young” reminded me that age may only be a number, but memories will last a lifetime.  “Go Easy” ended the album with a  gospel vibe especially when the  female backing vocals kicked in.  “Go – go easy.  And we’ll find our way” repeated throughout the track and eventually put the album to rest.   It was a nice switch, but something I was not expecting at all.

Overall, the album was a great listen, but there were two changes I noticed.  First, I found myself missing the punk rock vibe.  I did not feel it like I have in previous Lucero albums.  It was almost like they decided to set it on the shelf this round.  Secondly, Nicolis’ voice was not nearly as raspy.  There is just something about his scratchy singing voice I have always been a fan of.  On Women & Work, his voice is a tad smoother, almost as if he was dropping lozenges while singing. 

I will say that this album grew on me tremendously after my initial listen.  At first I was scratching my head on if I liked it, but after a couple of times through, I was hooked.  I loved how personal the album was throughout and how I related with the lyrics.  It’s catchy and it’s something that punk rockers and country lovers can all enjoy equally.  Women & Work is one of those kinds albums I’d have my parents listen to and I know they would not give me shit for it, but rather, ask for more.

Interview: Tim Barry

Folk / country / punk rocker Tim Barry is perhaps one of the hardest working musicians out there.  He tours when he can and makes ends meet when home, sometimes secluding himself from the real world for days at a time.  He’s been known to hop trains at times and has a great relationship with his fans, sometimes even asking them for lifts to local shows.  He’s always quick to thank said fans for their support and you know he is sincere while doing so.  The guy plays music for the sake of music.

The one time lead man of 80s punk legends Avail recently finished up an all new album entitled 40 Miler.  I can not tell you how excited I was to hear that Barry was releasing new material.  Naturally when I was asked to interview him, I jumped to the opportunity.  As a huge fan of Avail and his solo material, I was thrilled to be able to trade off some questions with Barry earlier this week.

Check out what he had to say, and make sure on April 10th, that you grab a copy of 40 Miler:

BHP: I guess to start things off we should probably talk about your upcoming release.  40 Miler is due out next month.  How are you feeling about this new release?

TB: I temporarily erased 40 Miler from my mind. Writing, planning and record an album is an epic task, as anyone who has spearheaded the process can attest. Once complete, the focus shifts to release work. I self manage, so I’m knee deep in all preparations regarding the recording becoming public. Currently that is mainly tour preparations. When I am done with an album I step away from it. This helps me gain perspective and hear it freshly. I am currently in what I call recording detox. I have no copy of the album at this moment to even reference. I look forward to getting my own copy when it is released on April 10. The album will sound brand new to me by then.

I heard that a 40-Miler is a term that train conductors used when referring to a hobo. Is that right?  Care to elaborate on this?

That’s actually incorrect. But close. It’s a term hobo’s use to slander another hobo. There are many different sects and sub sects in the railroad world. The term 40 Miler is comparable to calling a “mall punk” a poser. Or the new skater at the park a poser. Or perhaps the new worker in the wood shop the “new guy.” Lifer hobo’s, those who live on the rails, can use the term 40 Miler in a derogatory way to describe me. I’m a poser train rider. I take short trips close to home. I do not live on the rails I am a poser. A 40 Miler.

40 Miler sounds more country heavy over folk.  Was this intentional, or was this just how the songs came out?

I never have an intention with my albums. They come out the way they come out, but I think you are right. We focused more on our live sound while in the studio on particular songs. Adding heavy electric guitar and strong harmonica playing by Josh Small and Andrew Alli. Although I certainly left some of the very folk style songs on the record as well, such as Todd Beene.

“Adele and Hell” has a lot going on throughout the song including some duel singing duties.  Who was the lady who helped supply vocals on this track as well as on “40 Miler”?

The lady singing back up on “40 Miler” is in fact my right hand man Josh Small, who often accompanies me on tours; however, Julie Karr is the star of the song “Adele and Hell”.  Julie is a songwriter here in Richmond, VA, who I was lucky enough to coax into singing that song with me. She killed it. So happy it worked out the way it did. She’ll actually be playing her own songs on many of my tour dates this year. West coast for sure, and some up in the north east.

Ha, whoops… So did you recruit anyone else to help you record some of these songs?

Most of the players on 40 Miler are the folks that I tour with. The main players are Andrew Alli on harmonica and Josh Small. Both of those guys have put in many miles on my tours. Julie Karr is new to the crew. Cameron Ralston did all the bass tracks. He’s a Richmond local, and probably the best bass player I’ve had the chance to meet. My sister Caitlin also played violin, as she usually does on my recordings. And Lance Koehler, who has recorded my records for many years now shared the percussion responsibilities with me.

I love the track “Amen” off your new release. What made you decide to write such a song?

It’s funny to write a song out of context. The song “Amen” is a summery of a long time touring on my album 28th & Stonewall. A lot of good, and some bad happened in that year an a half. However, I wrote “Amen” while touring in the lap of luxury. I completed the song, and played a half-assed version live for the first time at the massive Osheaga Festival in Montreal while touring with The Gaslight Anthem, who was kind enough to let me tour in their bus. Funny to write a song about the hardships of touring while on the road with an incredibly giving group of people who fulfilled all of my needs.

How’s that hand doing these days?  I remember hearing about that.

Oh that? Boxer fracture. No big deal.

I want to shake your hand for writing “”Fine Foods Market” (see below for a video I found).  Thanks for the laugh.  Why did you decide to call out the hipster folk?

The original name of the song “Fine Foods Market” is “Tim Barry makes fun of Tim Barry.” Yes, I’m making fun of hipsters. But, I’m making fun of myself more than anyone. I’m at an age where I can tally up all my own idiocy and inconsistencies and publicly humiliate myself with clear conscience.

So, who is this Todd Beene fellow?  Sounds like a hellion.

He sure is. Let’s leave that one up to the listener.

Was there any certain track on 40 Miler that you favored over the rest?

No, not at all. I like all the songs. I dropped perhaps 25 [songs] before picking the ones that made the album. The next task is to find which ones feel the best on stage. I look forward to that.

As do I.  I can not wait to see you play some of these songs live.  Who did the cover art?  Is there any meaning behind it?

There is more meaning behind the cover art that I can articulate, but I’ll leave it at this: The design was created by my best friend Travis Conner who passed away in early 2008. I’ve used his art/photography on nearly all my albums and shirt designs. I refuse to let his memory to fade.

I completely understand.  Nice way to pay tribute.  Moving on, 40 Miler is being released on Chunksaah records.  How does it feel to be on such a great label?

Perfect. I’ve been close to the folks at Chunksaah for far longer than the label has existed. I trust and love all the folks involved with my release. I’m lucky.

So, how was SXSW?  My friend snapped a shot of you playing outside at Red 7 the other day and it looked like an absolute blast.

Whirlwind. Very quick trip. Shows were fun. Here was the schedule: Arrive in Austin via American Airlines at 11pm Thursday. Drink with Hot Water Music at hotel bar until 2am. Wake up at 6am. Eat breakfast. Go on short walk. Shuttle to downtown. Play two shows. Back to hotel to sleep from 11pm until 3am. Arrive at airport at 4:30am for departing flight to Richmond. Arrive in Richmond to have a coffee in my back yard by 11:30am. Head trip.

It doesn’t sound like you were able to see any other acts play SXSW at all.

Nope. Only the folks I played with. The entire line up for the Shirt for a Cure show was fantastic. I also played The Revival Tour show that afternoon. Everyone killed it.

I know you are not the biggest fan of the Internet, but I’ve noticed recently that your website has had quite the facelift.  First off, it looks awesome.  Second, does this mean you are biting the bullet and going to start using the Internet a little more often?

Travis Stom, Travis Stom, Travis Stom.. That man has done wonders for me. He has taken on all of my web design, updating and all logistics. If it weren’t for him, I don’t know what I would do. I am in no way a luddite, and do use all the free social networking sites as much as I can, but I’m simply not as well versed in computers as most folks are. They are the only thing in my life that creates real and pure frustration, so I steer clear of them as much as I can. However, I am not against technology and all of it’s benefits.

So many bands from the past are reuniting and touring or recording new material.  I’m sure you are asked this all the time, but still…any chance of Avail doing something again one day?

Nope. Been and done.

If you could tour with anyone alive or dead, who would you choose?

Townes [Van Zandt].

Finishing up, what’s next for Tim Barry?

Touring time. US, Australia and parts of Canada are lined up now. I’m sure tons more dates will pop up. I’ll probably write a book this year as well. Who knows? I don’t plan much. I just go where things take me.

Download the title track “40 Miler” – I should have a review of the album shortly.

40 Miler drops on April 10th on Chunksaah Records.  Preorder your copy today!

I saw Tim Barry play live a couple years back in Columbus with the Gaslight Anthem and was thoroughly impressed. Click here for a review of that show.

Check out my review of Tim Barry’s Manchester

Check out my review of Tim Barry’s 28th & Stonewall

Concert Review: Elliott Brood / The Pack AD / Leah Lou & The 2 Left Shoes – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH – 03/09/2012

I completely forgot that Toronto’s Elliott Brood was coming to town last week and if it wasn’t for a a good friend of mine, I would have surely missed out on an awesome show.  Luckily for me, my pal Kyle was quick to remind me last Friday, hours before the show, that Elliott Brood was playing the Beachland Tavern.  (Thanks Kyle, you are always looking out for me…)

It was a last minute decision to hit up the show, and I can not tell how how glad that I was able to.  The Ontario country / rock act was just about to finish up a stretch of their tour last week in support of their new release Days Into Years, and made sure that Cleveland was one of their destinations.  Touring with their pals The Pack AD, the band turned what could have been a boring Friday evening into something much more entertaining.

Locals Leah Lou & The 2 Left Shoes opened the night with their cute yet harsh indie pop sounds.  At times, I thought that Ms. Leah Lou was going to smash her acoustic guitar into the ground as it would not tune right for her causing the duo to skip over more than one song from their set.  Instead, she hid away her frustrations and used the free time to get to know the crowd as well as introduce her family to them.  When she was able to play some of her songs, the crowd was just eating it up.  I did notice while Leah Lou played her set that Casey Laforet from Elliott Brood was checking her out and was loving what he heard.  How couldn’t he though?  I love this local act.  Lea Lou reminds me of Regina Spektor mixed with Joanna Newsome, but far sassier.  If you have not seen this local act live yet, you really should.

Up next was Vancouver’s The Pack AD and I will admit, I did not know what to expect from this female duo at all.  The young looking lead signer had a punk rock look to her while the drummer appeared to have been well versed in the days of rock n roll.  I was expecting more of a Runaways / Joan Jett sound but was blown away by what I heard.  Their sound was more or less the White Stripes mixed up with some Black Keys with a span of singing stiles that sometimes reminded me of Justin Hawkins (not the high pitched crap) making for some great tunes.  Guitar, drums, and singing was all these ladies delivered and it was awesome.  I loved “Haunt You” as well as when Becky Black just tore up her guitar during “Lights” and also during “Deer” (at least that is what I think the song title was).  A couple gents from Fort Worth, Indiana, actually traveled 3 hours to see these ladies rock out.  At first I questioned why they would do such a thing, but by the set’s end, I fully understood.  I’m shocked that The Pack AD has not already grabbed some major attention already.  I will be checking these girls out more in the near future.

I’ve missed Elliot Brood in the past when they played Cleveland, so I made sure I found a close standing spot to watch the band.  I actually wound up leaning against the small wall by the stage.  As the band played, I could not help but stare at Laforet’s feet as he played what looked like a drum machine hooked up to some organ pedals while playing guitar.  It was a very makeshift instrument, but it was perfect.  He barely even glanced at his feet while playing songs.  It was kind of impressive.

Throughout their set, Marc Sasso joked with the crowd.  At one time he even paid tribute to the SS&W Boardwalk Bar just down on Waterloo and mentioned how he liked to grab drinks there before shows in the past.  He then went on to inform everyone that is where his parents met and eventually conceived him.  Laforet added that he was conceived on the pool table in the corner pocket.  All jokes aside, the band did let the crowd know that they appreciated everyone for coming out.

The band played a lot of tracks off their recent release Days Into Years including “Lindsey” and “If I Get Old”, but was also quick to jam out to some older tunes like “Oh, Alberta” and  my favorite,”Write It All Down For You” (can I tell you all how much better that song sounds when they play it to you in a tavern?).  It was the highlight of my evening.  I would have liked to have seen Stephen Pitkin beat on a suitcase over a drum set like I heard he used to years ago, but I guess you can’t have everything.  Speaking of percussion, Pitkin actually passed out pie tins and wooden spoons towards the end of the set so that the crowd could help Elliott Brood play songs.

Elliot Brood finished up their set and exited the stage.  They had more important things to do, like hang out with the crowd.  It was a great show to start off my weekend and I am sure that all who were there would agree on that.