Mickey Rickshaw- Behind The 8 Ball

a3625185790_10

Several years ago my band American Thread was playing out in the Boston area pretty regularly and we played a bunch of shows at John Harvard’s Brewery.  A friend of ours had a Trad Irish three piece called Paint The Corner and they would play with us most shows.  They looked like punks but played some of the best Trad around for my money and we were lucky enough to have them sit in with us when we dipped into our Irish tunes.

Anyways, fast forward to now and Paint The Corner is only a memory as they broke up pretty soon after our third show together.  Their Bagpiper/Bohdran/Whistle player Shane Welch joined up with a great crew and started Mickey Rickshaw which I like to describe as “everything I want the Dropkick Murphy’s to be”.

Romeo SidVicious reviewed their first album “No Heaven For Heroes” on the site last year and it’s my pleasure to spread the word on their second full length “Behind the 8 Ball”.

The album starts out with the ripping punked up “Rats In Allston” and delivers on all levels.   This is an anthem for anyone who’s been in the scene in Boston but will speak to everyone.  Distorted guitars churn while the boys chant behind Lead Singer Mike Rivkee’s drum like cadence only to end in a blazing Tin Whistle/Banjo blaze.

The third track “Destitution Road” is an excellent cover of the great Roaring Jack tune.  The boys do it justice in spades.

There’s for sure an anti-establishment theme here for sure.  At heart I’m a folk guy and the thing I LOVE about this band is the depth of writing.  Mike Rivkees has the writing chops to pull off a solo folk album if he wanted but I’m glad he’s being backed by a group of killer celtic/punk players.

My favorite track is “Nonprofit Warfare”.  Coming in at 3:29 in length there is lot of meat on the bone here for sure but I find myself singing this one in my head daily,

“Can you smell the gasoline, Aleppo City’s Burning,

And nobody’s learning from a bloody history,
Can you hear the screams of a fleeting generation?
Across a bleeding nation two hundred thousand sleep.”

I’m glad to say that the Mickey Rickshaw boys are getting some great recognition for their music having played The Flogging Molly cruise last year and being invited to go again this year.  I’m confident everyone who digs on the Celtic Punk genre will be talking about these boys in years to come.

It’s been awhile since I posted a review and now as usual I need to choose a tobacco and alcohol pairing for this album.  It’s for sure feeling like a 4 pack of Murphy’s Stout cans with a Jameson chaser and pack of Marlboro reds.  You’ll probably need a backup 12 pack of cheap beer to go with as well.

Bandcamp here
Facebook here

Bill Eberle- Matter & Time

a2705303962_10

A couple of weeks ago I had never heard of Bill Eberle or his music.  Then I clicked a link on someone’s Facebook post and within 30 seconds I was a complete convert.  Over the past two weeks I spent time in Maine devouring this album at the beach, trips to the packy(That’s Boston speak for liquor store) and sitting on the porch at night up to no good.

I’ve been meaning to write this review for the past week but it’s very hard for me to put this album into words.   It’s part pure country, part folk, part blues and pure genius throughout.  It’s hard to write about an album that you think might be the best you’ve heard in years.

The album opens with “Mean Mama Blues” and if you’ve ever been with a complicated woman you’ll find this meandering blues tune speaks right to you.  “I got a girl, she won’t treat me right.  She likes to drink hard liquor and she loves to fight.”  Alright Bill….I’m sold and you had me at ‘Hard Liquor’.

The fact that this album feels so authentic is part of its beauty.  I remember listening to Josh Ritter’s “The Animal Years” and thinking….the album SOUNDS like it should.  This feels exactly the same to me.  When the band launches into the twang filled rocker “Too Late to Take It All back” you could be in a dive bar waiting for your change on “2 Draught for 1” night.

There is plenty here for the folk fans as well with “Long Way Home” being one of the stand outs for me.  It’s a rolling folk number with perfect accompaniment about choices made in life.  “And babe I finally quit that drinkin’, I wanna be more like the man I was when we first met.  But still I hear them demons singing to me, and each melody’s a memory I never will forget”

There’s definitely some input here on the state of America as a whole with songs like “Ashes(Trayvon Martin Blues) but it’s never preachy or over the top.  It just exists within the album but doesn’t threaten to define the album.  It’s the perfect seasoning in my estimation.

The album is the rare one with no filler.  Everything is there for a reason including the production which is spot on.

The crown jewel of “Matter & Time” is “Same Old Town”.  The song opens with the creaking chair Bill is sitting down to play the song which is simply acoustic guitar and vocals.  The lyrics are delivered in such an infectious cadence that I spent the whole time in Maine singing this one over and over.  Songs about home towns are surely ground which has been mined before but not like this.  “It’s the same old song, that you love to live without, the world it will chew you up and spit you back out”.

So, Bill Eberle’s “Matter & Time” is Essential Listening and my album of the year for 2016 right now.  I’m hopeful he makes it up to Boston so I can catch this kid before he gets all big and famous.

Down to business!  I’m saying this one is best served with a 6 pack of PBR talls in a cooler on the back of a car with a fifth of Jim Beam.  That’ll work.

PS- BUY this album on bandcamp and put a few bucks in his pocket

Facebook

Website

Arliss Nancy- Greater Divides

 

a2044629850_10

Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody’s got a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth”. That’s how I feel about the new Arliss Nancy album “Greater Divides” which was released this past week. I turned it up and pressed play in my car during the 15 minute commute home from work and by the time I pulled into the driveway I was spitting out my teeth and bleeding from the lip in the best way possible.

The album opens with “Alluvial”, which to me feels like Springsteen at his angriest once upon a time. The songwriting and arrangement is spectacular here and I’d pay a kings ransom to see the boys attack this track in a small club.

I always look at albums like baseball lineups and there couldn’t be a better number 2 hitter in the lineup than “Don’t You Forget It”.  Any guy who’s been played like Playstation while all his friends watched with all-knowing disapproval will feel this track resonate through their bones.  “Listen to me once, listen to me twice, I can leave you faster than a Saturday night, Don’t You Forget it”- I would like to forget the amount of times I felt that way or said something similar to a girl who couldn’t care less.

The third song, “Dufresne” had me pulling back the tape to let the track wash over me again and again. There’s a special combination here of the lyrics and the way they are delivered. “Are we old enough to give in? We can call it off”. I think a lot of times songwriters try to reach for clever depth when it’s not needed. There’s none of that here.

The album continues to deliver and kill from there. The tracks “Finches” and “Bar of the Century” are pure awesomeness but the last track “Momentum” is legendary. I often judge albums on the last song. Having written a few albums in my day I feel like you’re always worried to put a song this strong very late on an album. I like to think the guys knew “Greater Divides” was so good that people would find this pot of gold at the end of their gray tinted rainbow.

“I wish I could say that it wasn’t my fault. I got a little too good at being gone singing former lover’s songs.”- Momentum

I’m pretty new here at Ninebullets so I should probably ask Romeo Sid Vicious if I can call something Essential Listening. Then again, I didn’t ask Julie Flanagan’s Dad for permission when I took her behind the school at the 8th grade dance and that worked out pretty well for me. So file this under Mike McTigue’s Essential Listening.

Also, with my last review I recommended my alcohol/tobacco pairing. For Greater Divides it feels like a thousand Miller Lites in a shitty car with the radio loud and two decks of Marlboro Mediums. If you’re too cool for Miller Lite I’ll let you drink your micro brew in the trunk while Julie Flanagan rides shotgun.

Facebook 

Official Site

Scott Nolan- Silverhill

Silverhill cover1

Texas songwriter Hayes Carll definitely knows how to identify a great song to cover. I listened to “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart” about 50 times before I found out Hayes didn’t originally write the song. I was even more surprised to find out that the original songwriter hailed from Winnipeg ,Canada, which is about as far from West Texas as one can get.  That was my introduction to Scott Nolan.

Scott released his most recent album Silverhill this past December and somehow it was not until last month that I started bingeing on it. He recorded the album in Silverhill, Alabama using the band Willie Sugarcapps to paint the background on a body of work I consider to be a masterpiece.

I always consider truly narrative songwriting to be the absolute easiest to completely botch. If it’s not authentic and doesn’t feel real it comes across clunky and forced.   When executed correctly it is the pinnacle of musical storytelling. Artists who can weave a complete world and give the listener a visceral experience in a 5-minute time window are as rare as great knuckleball pitchers. Scott Nolan is one of those rare artists.

The album opens with a sparse arrangement guitar, snare and mandolin on the brutally beautiful “When You Leave This World”. A tale of a man unexpectedly settling into a relationship and living full of regret; taking out his troubles on those around him. Lines like “In one conversation, short term destination, it led to a lifetime away from home” capture how lives end up defined by moments and one day we wake up not believing how we got there.

The third track, “Fire it Up” brings the listener into a young musicians development. Uncovering an old guitar and discovering rock and roll for the first time is captured in this musical snapshot of a youth full of anticipation and expectation. Who among us hasn’t played the rock star in the living room at 10 yrs old?

The album has its great moments of levity as well including the swampy blues number “Shake it Loose”. The song never needs to be to deep lyrically as it does what it is supposed to and gets you moving. You can feel that influence of the Southern recording location here. “Lets Play Twister” about a wine fueled night with the opposite sex is fun as hell.

I could easily break down every tune and my feelings on it but I think it makes the most sense that you just turn it on and experience it. Writing about music is strange territory for sure and the real review is how you feel when it works its way into your ear canals.

I’m going to start recommending some indulgences that I think fit the album. This one feels like a pack of Marlboro Reds and Jack Daniels/Ginger on the front porch. Trust me the world will break your heart long before that combination kills you.

 

Facebook- here
Website- www.scottnolan.ca
Spotify the album here

Josh Brooks – The Best New England Songwriter You May Have Missed

Brooks Tale Tales

I am of the belief that if you know of some great music you should spread the word.  Too many artists slip through the cracks and I feel like their music fades into the abyss while many people miss out on stellar songs.  I’m here to spread the word on some good tunes by a songwriter you may have missed.

In February of 2000 I was a Freshman at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont and about 2 years into my musical journey of writing songs. My CD collection ranged from Willie Nelson to Presidents of the United States and I was playing in my first band called Exit 15. We were an alternative rock band playing house shows and we were convinced it was only a matter of time before we were on MTV.(spoiler- we were wrong)

Now, if you’ve ever spent February in Winooski Vermont you know that there is not much to do for a 19 year old other than drink illegally in your dorm room. Its about 3 degrees and gray all the time.  This particular night my roommate John invited me over to his sister’s room to watch her friend play some folk songs. I accepted and my first thought was that hopefully I’d get to play some of my own material.

We showed up with a 12 pack of Natural Light and sat on the couch in a crowded room while a guy sitting in a chair swilled some wine with a guitar in his lap. He started to play the first song and about two bars in I was praying no one asked me to play a song that night for I would surely be exposed as a fraud. He was like a Vermont Neil Young, Springsteen and John Prine all rolled into one. That was my first introduction to Josh Brooks and I was blown away.

The way I looked at music and I approached songwriting changed after that night. I always thought that folk singers for the most part were sappy and boring. Josh was the antithesis of that. He sang about tough people in rural Vermont with real problems and small victories while infusing that subject matter with some laughs along the way.  A master songwriter in my opinion.

Over the next 3 years I caught him wherever I could, even going so far as to live tape a show on a handheld tape player so that I could really delve into the songs. We passed some polite hellos and such but we were not close friends.   I just had such a deep appreciation for what he was doing and the level at which he was writing.  I was pretty sure it was only a matter of time before he became a national folk sensation.

Time moves on and eventually I lost track of Josh as he stayed in Vermont and I moved back down to Boston. Finally he resurfaced on the internet with some new music and I devoured every CD he put out. We got in contact and shared a couple of shows in Boston around 2005 but he did most of his playing in the Taverns of Vermont.

Josh is busy now being a teacher and raising a family but last year he found time to put out his most recent album “Tall Tales” which is just Josh and his guitar and its absolutely terrific. It also confirms my belief that if you give a great songwriter a guitar and microphone you can get a great record.  Songs like “The Ballad of Heather Home Wrecker” about a gold digging woman turning a town upside down showcase Josh’s ability to infuse his work with some satire.  The highlight for me is “Tommy” which gives us an up close look at the effect of war on an unstable veteran.

I think when people picture Vermont they think of green mountains, streams and skiing. I think if someone wants to get a real feel for life in Vermont they should listen to all of Josh Brooks’ records.   Do yourself a favor and pour some whiskey in your glass and settle in with some of Josh’s music. I’ll let the music speak for itself and here’s a quick top 5 from me:

Check out his entire catalog here bandcamp

 

The Longwalls – Live At The Bridge – 2015

946759_10153762442539383_4197544453820161236_n

First things first….I forgot to write a little intro about myself last time. So, while my god given name is not Mike McTigue, I am a third generation Irish American from Boston. I’m also a songwriter which is how I came to know of Ninebullets when they were kind of enough to review our first couple of albums. I enjoy all the music covered here, Redbreast Irish Whiskey, Gibson Acoustic Guitars, gambling and of course women of Irish descent. Let’s face it…they also enjoy the drinking and loud music….it’s genetically programmed into their DNA.

On to The Longwalls and their great album “Live At The Bridge”. When we were picking up reviews for our first album we ended up on the same list with The Longwalls EP Kowloon. I clicked on it to give it a passing listen and was blown out of the water by what I said at the time was one of the most important pieces of writing to come out of Boston in years. It’s that…..frign…..good.   Sonically they are one of the most interesting bands I’ve ever put on my radio.

I banged back a few emails with members of the band about setting up a show and nothing ever ended up working out for a bunch of reasons. All the while I’ve spun their records and wondered how the hell what I think is the best band in Boston has 375 likes on Facebook. It’s absolutely criminal that these guys aren’t a household name in the Indie scene.

In November they released a live album titled “Live At The Bridge” which contains a good amount of material from their latest, “The Gold Standard” and “Careers in Science” as well as material from their other albums. Let me just say this first off….I am not a big fan of live albums.   Most bands disappoint me live if I am honest…not The Longwalls.

The album rips right out of the gate with “Careers in Science” and a burning guitar riff firing over acoustic guitar. Next comes the anthemic “Where Things Go to Fade” with distorted guitars taking JUST the right breaks at just the right times. This is an example of well thought out arrangements played by a band that is tight as hell.

The album continues from there with masterfully crafted indie rock tunes with just enough catchiness to have you hooked in tight but never veering into predictability.

The highlight for me is “Dark Academy” about the impact of a local arcade on a youth looking for excitement and acceptance in the pre-internet age. If you are old enough to remember those times you’ll dig the hell out of this tune. I know I did.

So I invite you to join me in listening to this awesome album. It’s name your price on bandcamp here but I would advise throwing them a few bucks. These guys don’t get nearly the recognition they deserve and I like to believe in a different time and place you’d be reading about them in Rolling Stone……and in that different time and place Rolling Stone is still cool and relevant.

Also give them some love on their Facebook Page.

Check out The Longwalls and your ears will thank you.

Mark Erelli Interview and New Album “For A Song”

994703_10153814411838057_5470583445259285482_n

When Romeo Sid Vicious tapped me to write for Ninebullets I was admittedly very excited. There is so much great music that comes out of Boston and the Northeast that I am looking forward to hopefully turning the readers onto some people they may not have listened to in the past.

Boston has been a breeding ground for great folk songwriters since Joan Baez played her first concert at Club 47(Now Club Passim) in Cambridge back in the 60’s.   Of course we get to claim plenty of other notables along the ways such as James Taylor, Martin Sexton, Lori Mckenna, Chris Smither and it’s true Josh Ritter was discovered playing open mic nights in Cambridge before being whisked off to Ireland by Glen Hansard of The Frames.

It’s no surprise that what I’m sure will be heralded as one of the best folk albums of 2016 will come straight out of cobblestone streets of the Cambridge folk scene in the form of “For A Song” by Mark Erelli. For those not familiar with Mark’s prior work this will he his 10th album and the first album of original music in 6 years. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to it already and its tremendous. The songwriting is top notch and the arrangements are spot on. Erelli really lets these songs breathe and tell the story to the listener.

You know those albums that feel important? I’m happy to report this is definitely one of those albums.
A quick note about Mark before I get into some Q&A with him- in baseball he’d be called a 5 tool player.   Although he started out as a solo artist he has gone on to produce albums by Lori McKenna, write an album with Jeffrey Focault, perform with local Bluegrass super group Barnstar!, and play guitar for McKenna, Paula Cole and Josh Ritter.

I was lucky enough to have Mark talk with me about the album but the point is you can donate to his Kickstarter here and help fund a great project…the album is the real deal and drops officially on April 8th.

You’ve got a lot of close friends in the Boston music scene but you also tour nationally by yourself and with people like Lori McKenna, Josh Ritter and Paula Cole.  Having been around the country how do you think the Boston folk scene stacks up with the other places you’ve visited?

Our scene may be smaller than some of the more prominent ones like Nashville or New York, but easily holds its own as far as the caliber of the musicians and songwriters. We have some of the best pickers and singers in the world here—I run into Duke Levine at the post office! The thing we don’t have is a connection to the larger music business, so that really neutralizes the destabilizing influence of crazy entertainment money. That makes it harder to make a living in some ways, but it makes it easier to have a palpable sense of community. In Boston, there really isn’t any reason to be so ambitious that it jeopardizes relationships because there’s really nothing to be gained by it. I’ve never felt the need to leave to find better music. For me, it just feels genuinely supportive and it feels like home.

What was the process like for assembling the songs for this project and what was the recording process like? 

It’s been six years since my last collection of original material, so the songs had the luxury of coming together really gradually. I was really busy in those six years: a record of murder ballads with Jeffrey Foucault, two bluegrass records with Barnstar!, I produced two more for Lori McKenna and released a tribute to Bill Morrissey. I also had another son in that time, so my hands were full. But in between all that stuff, songs still came and I took my time with them. I actually thought I was ready to make FOR A SONG a few years ago, and I sent the songs to Nashville singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Darrell Scott to see if he’d be interested in producing. He loved the material but thought I had too much, that many of the songs could be pared down further. After working so hard on this collection of tunes I was surprised, but when your hero tells you you’re not done, you go back to work. So I kept writing and editing, deleting whole verses and tightening things up, and I am so glad I did. By the time it came to actually record the songs, I’d lived with them for so long, I just wanted to go in the studio and capture them as simply and directly as possible. The basic tracks (vocals, acoustic guitars, bass and drums) were all recorded live in the studio, 13 songs in two days. But it really took me about 6 years of work to knock all that out in a couple days.

Who was involved and where did you record the album?

I recorded at Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, here in Boston. It’s started as a studio in the early 80’s—George Thorogood recorded many of his early hits there—and it’s been revived by a collective of engineer friends into a really happening, busy place these days. As far as the basic tracks I went with one trusted friend, Zachariah Hickman on upright bass, and one wildcard, Marco Giovino on drums. I did a day of keyboard overdubs with Sam Kassirer, and another day of pedal steel overdubs with Charlie Rose. A few backing vocal sessions with Paula Cole and the Western Den’s Deni Hlavinka, and I was basically done.

You’ve recorded two albums with your Bluegrass group Barnstar, produced albums for Lori McKenna and also wrote an album of murder ballads with Jeffrey Focault.  So..what was it like to go back to that solitary area of songwriting by yourself and which do you prefer?

Coming back to my own material felt like a bit of a risk, in a weird way. I love collaborating and being a sideman, it’s everything I love about music and you’re only responsible to one person, the artist who hired you. It’s just simpler, there’s no bullshit and I can focus solely on the music. But of course there are things I want to say that I can’t say with just a guitar, or within the context of someone else’s show. So I knew I was going to have to step back up to the plate at some point, and it feels like the right time. I’m still doing the bluegrass stuff and lots of sideman work, so I’m always switching gears…boredom and free time are not things I ever have to contend with.

What is the plan for after the album comes out as far as a tour goes?

The tour is still coming together at this point. I’m kind of always on tour, 3 weekends out of every month I’m doing anywhere from 2-4 nights at a time. I do hope to take this record and get back to some places that I haven’t been in a long time, like the west coast and southwest. But other than that, I basically just go where people want me, and on any given weekend you can find me in New England or down the east coast, the Midwest, the Great Plains, Texas or wherever I can get to and still get back to drop the kids off at school Monday morning.

Last question- Who have you been listening to most recently?

A whole range of stuff: Blake Mills, Elvis Costello, Joan Shelley, Lucius, John Moreland, Joey Alexander, Norman Blake, B. B. King, Dave Rawlings Machine…I’m all over the place.

You can keep up with Mark at his Facebook page here

And get his other awesome music here