Highland Park Optimist Club – Kitchen Tapes (Demo EP) – 2016

highland park

So this is the first time I’ve ever written about a demo and we don’t write about EPs (except when we do) but this one grabbed me. I almost didn’t write about it even though I’ve literally listened to it at least once a day since it was released. There’s two reasons for that, Highland Park Optimist Club is Paul Grant, one of our new contributors (even if he hasn’t written anything and that page is blank); the other reason being that I hate writing about my friends’ music. Sure I do it, a lot, but I always worry about them not liking my review. I decided that with the disclosure that he’s on staff and a friend, that I’d go ahead. You could have probably done with less explanation so let’s get on with the review.

No relationship is perfect but some people are better at catching that in song that others. Paul’s youth shows through in these lyrics and that can be hit or miss but in this case it’s dead on. The stories he tells are passionate and vibrant, even though everything’s gone tits up for him. I’m literally old enough to be this kid’s father and it not be socially awkward and he’s managed to drag me back to a time when burning your ex’s shit was done out of passion and not simple malice. I swear I can smell the CDs burning in my dad’s Old Smokey (yeah, he wasn’t happy about that) after one particularly interesting break up. These three stories are set to a perfect backdrop of minimalist guitar which only adds to the rawness and overall tone. Toss in a couple of meta-references about the scene and you apparently have all the ingredients to grab my full attention.

That said, it’s not a perfect record. I would love to see more confidence in the vocals when he releases an actual record and not a demo. Youth and passion do only go so far in the end. That said I think there’s a lot of promise here and this is a damn fine demo. Paul is someone you’re going to want to follow. I have a feeling he’ll get over his apparent fear of the mic and when that happens I’m going to get to say that I wrote about him before he was discovered and you’ll all have been there since the beginning.

Introduction to Scott Fuchs

Scot might kill me for adding this pic - RSV
Scot might kill me for adding this pic – RSV

It all started with The Dirty South. From the first chord of “Where the Devil Don’t Stay” all the way through “Goddamn Lonely Love”, Drive By Truckers reintroduced me to a type of music I hadn’t heard since I was a little kid listening to Skynyrd on KBER 101, Salt Lake’s Best Classic Rock.

Work and divorce led me to Texas. I met this lady from Little Rock and was soon making a weekly trip to the Natural State. Needing some music for the drive I stopped into a record store outside of Dallas that no longer exists. I bought 3 CD’s, the latest from Old 97’s because they were from Dallas, Queens of the Stone Age Lullabies to Paralyze and Drive By Truckers The Dirty South because I’d read an article that said they were good and the cover art was fantastic.

I immediately dug deeper into DBT’s catalog after becoming obsessed with The Dirty South. Southern Rock Opera had gotten the most press back then and it is, undoubtedly, great. But Decoration Day remains by favorite DBT record after all these years. “My Sweet Annette”, “Outfit”, “When the Pin hits the Shell”. Three stellar songwriters all at the top of their game. It was all just perfect.

My desire to discover anything and everything I could online about my new favorite band lead me to stumble upon ninebullets.net. It is not an understatement for me to say ninebullets changed my life. My eyes were opened to so much great music that I simply never would have discovered had it not been for 9B and, later, Nine Bullets Radio on wmnf.org in Tampa. If I was forced to list my top ten favorite musical artists I’m very sure at least seven of them I wouldn’t have known about them without ninebullets.net.

My musical tastes are similar to many that read the site and listen to the radio show: Lucero, John Moreland, American Aquarium, Matt Woods, Scott H. Biram and so many more are all artists I love. I also unabashedly adore Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, and The Hold Steady, but those aren’t the type of reviews I will offer on 9B. I am cognizant of the mission of the site and won’t let my alternative/indie rock tendencies seep in too often.

Before signing off for now I’d like to sincerely thank RomeoSidVicious for letting me contribute to 9B. I humbled and thankful. And of course, the biggest thanks of all to Autopsy IV for creating 9B. I’m not sure, AIV, you had any idea how big this whole thing would get when you created it years ago but I know I’ve met a lot of people, made some good friends, and seen a lot of killer shows I never would have had I not bought a Drive By Truckers CD on a whim all those years ago.