Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Ramshackle Army tell a story with their upcoming release, "Letters From The Road Less Travelled"

Hey everybody!

I am here today give exposure to a really amazing punk rock and folk outfit from Australia called the Ramshackle Army.  Now before I go farther, I want you think back two years and  remember when Boston's own, Dropkick Murphys took this band out on tour for their St. Patricks Day weekend! The Boston area should certainly be familiar with them opening for night one of the Dropkick Murphys at the House of Blues plus performing at President's Rock Club in Quincy, MA.  Anyways, these punk rockers from Australia are back and are ready to make another stamp with their upcoming release, "Letters From The Road Less Travelled" coming out on East Grand Record Co. in Michigan.  For those who are not too familiar, keep reading because this album is something you do not want want to miss.  The band combines an amazing energy of punk rock and folk yet nothing you have seen before.  The Ramshackle Army go above and beyond in pushing the limits of their sound.

After an accordion filled Intro, the band hops right into "Anchors Aweigh" which is an upbeat tune with a folkier edge to it.  Lead vocalist and song-writer Gaz has a tendency to sing and write his songs in a story telling format.  The upside to that is it keeps the listener interested in the lyrics and will perhaps go into the lyric book and follow along.  The following track, "Coffin & Copper" is certainly another story teller as well and is a song about travels which happens to be a recurring theme on this album.  Many other subjects include songs of laboring and work such as "Boilermaker" which is a personal favorite of mine.  Work is a part of everyday life, so why not write about it?

I would say the biggest difference between this album and some of their previous releases is like I said earlier, their sound has expanded.  They still have the punk rock edge but also have a huge emphasis on the folk and traditional music type stamp. With that style, this album could appeal to people of all ages much like bands such as Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly do.  The Dropkick's certainly did right by taking these guys out on tour a couple years back.  The title track, "Road Less Travelled" talks quite a bit about the travels they have been on to get where they are today.  As everyone knows, there is no getting by in this business without hard work and dedication.  Songs such as "Broken Town" and "Locked Down" give off more of a punk rock feel yet with a down trodden story.  Toward the tail end of the album, songs such as "Drink It Dry" have a mid tempo feel as does"Skin Will Burn" but speeds up.  The second to last track, "Signs Of Rain"is a slower start of a track the band clearly took their time on writing and recording.  Like many of the other tracks, the band really went and turned it into a mid temp tune. Some might say this is a redundant formula but it is clear that they stick to what they know when it comes to their writing. The last track, "One Tree Hill" may be the catchiest of them all with the perfect mix of guitars, banjo and all around musicianship.

"Letters From The Road Less Travelled" out February 18th

Overall, "The Road Less Travelled" by the Ramshackle Army is a great album which shows how much the band as stepped up to the challenge to step out of their musical comfort zone.  As noted earlier, this album is perfect for a crowd of all ages.  From the older crowd who may appreciate the traditional folk elements, and the younger crowd that has a knack for the punk rock type of songs.  Be warned though, if you are expecting a Dropkick Murphys or Flogging Molly carbon copy, please think twice because the Ramshackle Army are on a quest of their own!

Album out February 18th on East Grand Record Co.

Band/Label Info:

The Ramshackle Army Facebook
East Grand Record Co. Facebook

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"As Bold As Brass" by Booze and Glory

Over the last couple of years, a really talented and fist pumping Oi! band from England called Booze and Glory have been hitting the streets and making a name for themselves.  Now don't be fooled by the name, this isn't another Oi! band that only talks about drinking and "smashing hippies"  in their lyrics.    This album is a blistering thirteen song full length that gives a toast to family and friendships, an ode to the working man if you will, and it all includes a youthful and energetic momentum in their songs.  The lyrics are easy to grab on to, the guitar riffs are catchy and the gang sing alongs will have you singing along in no time!  "As Bold As Brass" by Booze and Glory is the hopeful future of Oi! music and street level rock and roll!

The hard hitting crew of skinheads known as Booze and Glory kick off into the opening track, "Off We Go!" which is as catchy as they come with album openers. The hard hitting snare drum and ear grabbing guitar riff  draws the listener in as the band tells the story of leaving their homes behind to go on tour.  As somebody who has a fancy for street punk and Oi! music, this is an amazing album opener.  If you wanted youthful, then that's what you get with this next song, "Leave The Kids Alone" which could be an instant fist raiser and unifying song at a Booze and Glory show.  This song is one of the catchiest songs on the album with the variation in vocals and musicianship reminiscent of  the Oi! classic, "If The Kids Are United" by Sham 69 .

Some tracks take on a more serious tone but then lift you up in spots such as "Down and Out", with "When you're down and out, the ones that stick by you, are the real ones that count" as a simple reminder that you are not alone.  Tunes such as "One Of Them" have an extreme take on the gang sing along style which is perfect for a band like this as it drives home their sound.  Though the track titled "Julie" reminds me of many other Oi! songs about girls or relationships, the band still serves themselves right with the storytelling style of song writing.  Another jingle, "Only Fools Get Caught" reminds us about the importance of staying true to oneself.  The chorus, "Some people never change, some fade away, Some people break the rules, but only fools get caught!" You can also view a video for this song, here.

One of the most energetic and easily angrier fist pumping tracks, "Sick Of You" makes for a perfect tune to dance to, and grab onto your buddies with.  The highlight for this track is simply the chorus, "We're the wasted generation, we're always number two.  We've had enough of fucking ignorance, and we're sick…sick of you!" The song could be pointed in so many directions with the misunderstanding of the skinhead culture, the politics that add to the disenfranchised working man, and much more.  Next, "Farewell Goodbye" is another upbeat sing along, followed by "I Hope You Still Remember".  This track pays homage to those who built the scene, and the friendships created in the band's youth.  Its a simple reminder not to forget your roots.  The last track, "We'll Stick Together" is a perfect, uplifting song to end the record and even a set.  Its unifying, and it leaves this listener asking for more.

Overall, "As Bold As Brass" gives many of us hope for the Oi! scene that is coming out today.  Many people love to be critical and question many bands but these guys are the real deal in my eyes.  I personally feel that this album is a step up from some of their earlier work.  The musicianship, vocal switch ups, and song writing has certainly improved, and I really look forward to hearing even more from these lads!

Band Information:
Booze and Glory Official Website/Facebook
Booze And Glory Twitter
Booze and Glory Merch
Sailors Grave Records Merch Store

Friday, January 17, 2014

Review of "Truth, Love, and Liberty" by FM359 (Featuring members of the Street Dogs and Continental)

This week, FM359 released their full length debut album entitled, "Truth, Love, and Liberty" on Pirates Press Records.  If you have listened to it, you do know by now that this record isn't what some may have expected- perhaps a lighter version of a punk rock record.  This record is an explosion of americana, country, a little bit of punk rock and even gospel, which resembles influences and comparisons across the board from the Pogues, Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, and many more.  The band features some counterparts that most of you should be familiar with including Mike McColgan, Johnny Rioux, and Pete Sosa from the Street Dogs, Rick Barton from Continental, and Hugh Morrison from Murder The Stout (as seen with the Street Dogs).  Playing along side these music veterans, the band offers Halston Luna and David Schafer.

As an avid listener of this record, the band's lyrics display a less outward look on life but an introspective look at life of the everyman so to speak.  The full length starts off with a fast and rousing number called "Some Folks" which is easily identifiable to the regular every day person when lines come into play such as, "Some folks think you got nothing, but if they take a closer look they see you got it going on" and my personal favorite, "Some folks will always judge you, and the only way you'll never win is when you wave them goodbye!" The verse is followed by a reassuring chorus, "No man is a better man than you, don't be fooled by the price tag on his suit, it don't matter if his collars white or blue.  He's been up and down, just like you!" which gives the everyday human being who struggles a sense of self, and that they are worth something.  Track two, "I'll Be On My Way" (written by Hugh Morrison) is one of my personal favorites with the catchy musicianship behind it and the sing along chorus, its easy for anybody to latch on to.  The writer makes the listener think about where will he or she may be tomorrow as nobody really knows what could happen.  It leaves you guessing.

Many of these tracks start with a slower pace but catch up in speed in the music and "A Little Sign" is a perfect example of that.  At McGreevys this past Wednesday for the album release party, the band had the crowd singing back the chorus and bridge back to them.  Toward the middle of the record, the band hammers out the socially conscious "When the People Check Out" which encourages the American people to tune in on what is really going on and look beyond the distorted mess that we call news media and politics.  Out all the tracks, the track I feel they really branched out on musically was "Forbidden Love" which gives off a Bruce Springsteen vibe/influence with the style of song writing portrayed.  Rick Barton shares vocals on this number which is perfect for him because his voice captures the essence of the song and fits it really well, too!

The song, "I Saw The Light" I feel gives a glimpse of what goes on in the lives of the song writers of this record.  The first verse sang by Johnny Rioux really stands out with "I traveled far from sea to sea, to see if I could find my heart of gold.  And when I found the one that I loved, I fucked it up and now I'm all alone".  Before I continue, I really want to point up Johnny Rioux's talent on this album with his vocal arrangements throughout this piece as well as his "Cowboi!" record.  It is excellent for him to branch out like he has!  Rick Barton tells his tale in the second verse with "…I got a loyal little dog, and a pocket full of bones. I've tried the ordinary way but it never worked for me".   In the third verse, McColgan drives it home with "Well I know its hard for a man to when he's mistaken, we've all been taught in our lives we got to make it" which in a way sums up the song.  In my perspective, I feel that this song is about redemption and seeing the "light" (pun intended) through a dark situation.  There is always a light at the end of the tunnel!

Another one of my favorites is "Bring It On" which is an uprising and uplifting song which can be applicable to anybody facing a challenge in life.  In my eyes, this song talks about the struggles of being in a touring band, how hard you work, and the doubt you are faced with by other people.  The opening verse/line is straight to the point with "Go ahead I dare you, come and walk this path, Where the dreamers all crumble, giving skeptics time to laugh" leaving the topic or situation endless for the listener to decide.  The track, "It Stays With Me" is an introspective look in Mike McColgan's life growing up in Savin Hill a neighborhood in Dorchester, MA. and attending Catholic school as a young kid.  The opening line, "Remember cold Tuttle Street days, just to run down Grampian Way. Dreamers sprung loose by Catholic cages, come take a walk with me, I'll read my pages" as well as "Be set by their rule, be set by their God, We lived in fear of Jesus, Didn't want to get it wrong.  Had to run away, sing away, find a way out. Kept it quiet for a long time, it will stay with me all of my life."  The entire verse gives a glimpse with the environment McColgan grew up in through the eyes of a young person and speaks for many of those who grew up in the environment as he did.

The last and final track, "Sons of Liberty No. 1" (written by Hugh Morrison) is an upbeat sing along song.  It has been exclaimed as a fan favorite by those who have the record.  The jingle also isn't a bad way to end the record either, on a high note!  If you listen to it, its almost an old battle cry for unity and and easily is the most fitting way for them to end their set live as well as to close their album.  Overall, this record is amazing, well versed, and top notch.  The music diversity, and effort these FM359 displayed is unreal.  I am really happy that this project is different from the other punk and rock outfits they belong to because Mike and Johnny particularly, really improved going outside of their comfort zone!  Keep up the good fight, gentlemen!

Band Info:
FM359 Facebook
Pirates Press Records Facebook
Pirates Press Records Offical Website - Buy the record here!

Monday, January 13, 2014

A review of "Delete, Delete" EP by the Black Cheers

 After taking a few days off, its time to get back to writing!  The Black Cheers are a newer band coming from the Boston area but have some veterans of the Boston punk rock scene.  The band features Daniel O'Holloran from the legendary Darkbuster and Scott from the Stray Bullets.  Anyways, compared to most Boston bands coming out these days, the Black Cheers have a much different sound and way of doing things which is never a bad thing.  The band displays have garage punk type sound mixed with a 70s punk rock influence and within that you can hear reminences of the Clash, the Stiff Little Fingers, the Ramones, and perhaps a little bit of 80s hardcore for good measure.  I must say, I appreciate the different sound and influences this band possesses.

Their first EP called "Delete, Delete", it is a blistering five song album meant to be played loudly.  The first track is the title track and is a fast and anthemic tune that clocks in roughly at 2:02.  Its certainly not a bad way to start the EP off and is a perfect way to get an idea of what the direction the band is going in with their sound.  Track two "Breakdown" is a raw and stripped down track yet with a slower and melodic feel with a Dead Boys/Ramones influence.  It has been awhile since Boston has seen something along the lines such as this.  In my eyes, if you take the New York Dolls, the Clash, the Stiff Little Fingers, and maybe a little bit of Black Flag, those influences made up the Black Cheers.   The next track, "Like Theirs" is taken up a notch in speed.  As much as the Black Cheers has the 70's influence, it is fair to say that the band has an 80's hardcore influence but on a smaller scale.  It is a rare find these days to have a band display a bold mix of influences as these guys do that sets them a part of the gang sing along type (not that there is anything wrong with that!) yet is easily accessible to the scene.  As the last two songs display, they are played loud and fast.  Most of their songs on this debut EP clock in just right over the one minute mark with the exception of one or two songs.  The last two tracks "Don't Make Me Wait" and "Beginning Of the End" come and go quickly staying true to hardcore punk form.  I look forward to see what the Black Cheers delivers overtime.  I really hope they develop their sound more and realize how much of an accessible band they would be on a great punk rock bill!  Overall, the Black Cheers are doing something right in the direction they are going in.  Hopefully this will spark a new sound for new bands to come and try something new along the way and off the beaten path!

The Black Cheers Facebook
The Black Cheers Band Camp

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Night 3 of Hometown Throwdown #15 with Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Sam Black Church and Rebuilder

Night three came quick and entirely too fast.  I always feel the last night of any marathon shows (whether it be Dropkick Murphys, the Street Dogs, or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones), tends to creep up way too fast.  I personally felt night three was easily the best Throwdown night of them all and they were nothing short of amazing.  In general, Hometown Throwdown Sixteen was easily the best Hometown Throwdown I have yet experienced.  Between the people, the energy, the experience staying at the Buck Hotel in Kenmore square, the set lists, and much more, you just can't fucking beat it.  Another feeling for me was the easy transition from Wreck The Halls to the Throwdown as they are just within just a few days of each other.  With that, I am still able to catch up with more friends who may not have made it to the shows the weekend before.  The diverse amount of supporting acts made it a memorable experience because you have so many different options given to listen to, it easily makes everyone happy.  Anyways, onward with the review.

The night started out with a brand new band called Rebuilder which features members of Dead Ellington.  The last time I saw these guys perform was with the Dropkick Murphys on St. Patricks Day last year.  Rebuilder possesses the energy that many bands do not and the willingness to pour out everything they have on stage.  To my ears, these guys have an influence that is along the lines of NOFX with a little melodic hardcore edge to them.  Rebuilder is certainly a band that cares about crowd interaction as they were not afraid to get the crowd warmed up.  I also recently learned that the band also puts their material out on their own label called "Refuse, Rethink, Rebuild" which also really states the band puts forth a true Do It Yourself work ethic.  The kind of mentality is something that seems to be fading these days. I noticed during the  performance that these guys are no stranger to the stage and are no stranger to trying new things.  If I noticed correctly, the band was using some sort of piano or synth which I feel adds to the unique sound Rebuilder has made for themselves.  Overall, I enjoyed their set and look forward to watching them perform again.

Next was Boston hardcore legends, Sam Black Church.  I really looked forward to seeing these guys play because out of all of the reunions I have seen of Boston hardcore bands, Sam Black Church has stayed on the down low. The band certainly brought their own fans as you could see the energy on the floor and in the pit was much more aggressive than it was for the Bosstones.  For a band that hasn't played much at all, they really brought a lot of energy with them.  SBC tore through roughly a forty five minute set without stopping much at all.  As mentioned earlier, I really enjoy how the headlining act really likes to bring support acts of all shapes and sizes, including their counterparts from the 80s.  My first Hometown Throwdown in 2008 at the Middle East, Slapshot was invited to play which was an absolute blast.  Here we are five years later, the legendary Sam Black Church is playing.  The crowd (which the majority were Bosstones fans), really responded well to the performance and the fans they brought.   At the same time, the fans who were primarily there for Sam Black Church did the same.  All in all, I thought it was a great performance and it was a blast to watch the energy they kept their entire set.  Perhaps another reunion of theres will come again soon.

At last, it was time for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.  Night three came like a whirlwind and despite the exhaustion, I wasn't quite ready for the fun to end.  The lights went down, and "Ball of Confusion" by the Temptations came over the P.A.  At the height of the intro, the curtain fell one last time, and out came the boys in white tuxedos.  The band launched right into "Noise Brigade" (which I called as the opener) from their 1997, "Let's Face It" album which set the crowd off instantly.  The 'Tones kept the trend going with filling the setlist that included all kinds of gems.  The band immediately ripped right into, "Mr. Moran" and that had been awhile since I have seen that live.  A personal favorite, "Jump Through The Hoops" came in third which was a pleasant surprise as well.  Of course, a show isn't a show without an asshole (usually intoxicated) begging for any kind of attention as somebody giving either the band and/or a security guard the bird.  Dicky Barrett instantly called him out on it with, "Dude, we get the point!  We get the point!" which resulted in the patron darting for the back.  I admire musicians who aren't afraid to call somebody out for acting like a schmuck.

The Bosstones made it a point to mix the setlist with old and new material to keep the crowd guessing and entertained.  They really made it an effort to throw the crowd off and keep everybody on their toes.   From their album "Pin Points and Gin Joints", it was great to hear "Wasted Summers",  and "You Left Right?".  Meanwhile, the band happened to bust out, "Rascal King", "They Came To Boston", and "You Can't Win" very early in the set, as well.  During mid-set, Dicky made it a point to dedicate "The Horseshoe and the Rabbits Foot" from "The Magic of Youth" to his daughter.  It was a pleasure to hear "Common Decency" live once again, as well as "Hell Of A Hat".  To please the early diehards, "Devil's Night Out" and "Haji" made the setlist toward the end which was a lot of fun live.  The main set ended with "Holy Smoke".

Lastly, it was a very special night for two friends of mine!  My friend, Gina Venz proposed to her partner, C.E. Skidmore at the beginning of the encore which resulted in a yes! The encore included five songs instead of the usual three.  If my memory serves right, this was only the second time I heard "Favorite Records" which was great to hear live.  It also included the famous, "Toxic Toast" from the "Question The Answers" album.  Next, former Mighty Mighty Bosstones guitarist, Nate Albert came out and joined the band on "Kinder Words",  which lead right into "the Daylights".   Another major highlight included Tim Brennan of the Dropkick Murphys sitting in on a few songs at the beginning of the set and toward the end.  The very last song of the night and of Hometown Throwdown #16 was "Pirates Ship" which as the perfect way to end it.  The ending verse, "Keep the spirits up with a smile, as we walk another mile, cause when the journey ends, we'll still be the best of friends!" and concluded with a exuberant "Thank You" from Dicky Barrett himself.  Right then, I realized that was the end of yet another amazing Hometown Throwdown.

Til Next Time!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Youth Brigade, Street Dogs- Hometown Throwdown Night #2

After roughly four hours of sleep on the floor of the Hotel Buckminister, I was up and ready to go in the early hours of morning anticipating for what the rest of the day would bring.  There was much speculation as to what the special guest would be.  Of course, many people could not separate fantasy/who they would love to have, compared to what the realistic option was.  The Bosstones did a great job marketing the idea of the surprise guest by putting them on the first opening slot at 7PM.  This attracted a very solid crowd and low and behold, it began.  Around 7, the lights dimmed and a very country-western intro came on which was very labor related (Can you see where I am heading here?).  All of a sudden, out comes Lenny Lashley, Matt Pruitt of the Street Dogs with their friend Matt Charette for a special acoustic set.  The boys kicked into the 2003 title track, "Savin Hill" in which Mike McColgan followed them right on out for.  Their setlist included "Yesterday", "Stagger" which is rarely played live.  A few songs in, Street Dogs busted out "Free" which included a shout out to our good friend, Sean Tuohey, Jay, and myself.  Around the holidays, thoughts and prayers are given to those who serve our country and with that, the set included "Final transmission" and It was pleasant to hear "Two Angry Kids".  Mike McColgan noted that they have playfully called themselves, "The Street Illuminators" (hence Lenny Lashley joining the band) which lead Lenny Lashley to performing his original, "Anti-Xmas Song" which has become a staple.  The band finished off the night with "Oh, Father" which has never been performed live before.  This is a song that makes you appreciate your family and loved ones when they are all that you got.  After last weekends Wreck The Halls show the Street Dogs headlined, this may have been the tightest they have played and that performance before was incredible.

Up next was Youth Brigade from southern California.  Obviously this band has been around for awhile and was a staple in the rising of the California punk scene.  I for one have not listened to them much growing up but they truly played a phenomenal set.  I was pretty floored by how tight they sounded that night and how they just played straight through.  From my point of view, it was disappointing how the crowd essentially stood there that entire set and didn't move.  I cannot say I was expecting that considering their history in the punk rock community.  I have often found that bands who have played for a very long time such as Youth Brigade, they don't particularly sound as tight as they did back then but they really proved the lot of us wrong.  After watching them, I almost came to the conclusion that they may have sounded better now than perhaps some of the times I have briefly listened to them before.  As the saying goes, "Just like old whiskey, it gets better with age!" and there is something to be said for that.  After their set, their frontman made his way to the merchandise table to where I was standing near and made conversation with anybody who was willing.  It is amazing to see such veteran's of the punk rock community take time to do just that. If they come back around, I will certainly make it a point to see them again.

Night two was certainly a step up from night one.  The energy they displayed, the sound/acoustics, and the overall performance was that much better in my opinion.  The set list included plenty of gems which I will get to later.  After walking out on stage to "War" by Edwin Star, the band kicked right into "I'll Drink To That" which was unusual yet oddly perfect opener for the night.  The suspense and intro of the song was perfect.  Another gem was "I Wrote It" from "Pin Points and Gin Joints" which was amazing to hear live.  That is easily my favorite song off of that record and not to mention in general.  Classics such as "Old School Off The Bright", "The Rascal King", "Where'd You Go?" came out extremely early in the set which set the tone for the night.  Tunes off their more recent release, The
Magic Of Youth" was "The Daylights" which included James Lynch from Dropkick Murphys on guitar, the heartwarming "Sunday Afternoons on Wisdom Ave.", "Like A Shot Gun" and some more.  The crowd always is pleased to hear old fan favorites from the early days, such as "Hope I Never Lose My Wallet", "The Cave", and "Devil's Night Out".  I personally enjoyed seeing "Bad News and Bad Breaks", "Last Dead Mouse", and the ever so popular sing along, "Toxic Toast".  No song seems to unify the crowd though more than "Don't Worry Desmond Dekker" as Dicky always notes that the song is about "…Brotherhood, Loyalty, and Friendship" which is why we are all here at these shows anyway.

The main set ended with "You Gotta Go!" which resulted in an energetic applause from the crowd.  Within minutes, The boys in plaid walked right out and started three song encore with, "All Things Considered" from the "Pay Attention" era which I think was a different but still good way to open an encore.  As everybody knows, a Bosstones show isn't a Bosstones show with their commercial hit, The Impression That I Get" (from "Lets Face It") which always pleases the crowd and the final song of the night was "A Pretty Sad Excuse" which starts slow and ends fast. I must say, this was easily the best Mighty Mighty Bosstones show at that point in the weekend and in my time seeing them.  Of course, we had one more night to get through but this was by far one of the most enjoyable show going experiences thus far.