Mickey Rickshaw – No Heaven for Heroes – 2015

noheaven

By now you all know my penchant for music with a touch of Irish influence. What you might not know is how much stuff out there sounds like rehashed Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys and just isn’t up to snuff. What this means is that I am actually picky about the bands that I listen to on a regular basis. When Brendan Ahern from American Thread dropped me a note about Mickey Rickshaw, an eight piece act out of Boston, I was a little reserved in my expectations because a lot of what’s out there is just not good, but I’ve learned to trust Brendan’s tastes so I gave it a chance and found myself pleasantly surprised.

Mike Rivkees had been writing songs for a few years while living in Australia, Fiji, and Italy. He ended up landing in Boston where he met Shane, the whistle player because of Pogues patch and from what he says this relationship snowballed in to an eight member band in less than a year. It’s no surprise that Boston spawned a punk outfit with Irish influences, at least not to most people, but based on having followed the scene for quite a while it’s a nice change to see it spawn an act that’s not just a carbon copy of other acts in the scene. And yes, the music will sound familiar, just like any other genre but at the same time the band’s take on it is original and fun. If you get right down to it, that’s my bar for this genre. If you can’t make me tap my foot or imagine singing along in a pub then I just don’t have time for it. Mickey Rickshaw makes me long for nights of too much Redbreast and questionable decisions which means they clear my threshold for good Irish-punk with relative ease.

I won’t make any claims about No Heaven For Heroes changing your life or even being socially redeeming but I will issue a warning that it could lead to a weekend of forgetting your own name, if you’re easily inspired to knock back a pint or twelve. While not every track is an inspiration to sacrifice one’s liver to the gods the tracks that tackle deeper topics are done in such a manner that they are still catchy in just the right way and interspersed in a manner to where they don’t feel preachy. It really wouldn’t be an Irish-punk album without some working-man’s politics but so many bands forget to have fun with it and Mickey Rickshaw doesn’t fall in to that trap. So go grab this one, enjoy yourself and say a little prayer that I’ll be able to resist the siren call of the bottle of Middleton Very Rare sitting on my desk, my boss is out-of-town and Mickey Rickshaw is making me question why day drinking is a bad idea.



ROMEO SID VICIOUS' – TOP ALBUMS OF 2014

Let me start by saying that 2014 was a great year for music and that once I sat down to make this list I didn’t want to. You see there was so much amazing music last year that I feel like any attempt to sort it all out in to some sort of arbitrary ranking wouldn’t do justice to any of it. So I’m not numbering these, nor will I say anything more than what follows are my favorite releases of 2014. Hell I honestly don’t even know how many there’ll be when I finish!


matt-brushyMatt Woods is one of my favorite people, bar none, on the planet. On top of that he makes amazing music. With Love From Brushy Mountain came out way back in May, 2014 and it hasn’t left my rotation since. It was Michelle’s first and only Essential Listening review and I agree with her assessment. Seriously, if you wrote a top list and this wasn’t on it then I think your list was, at the very least, lacking. On top of all that, Matt is reason I finally got to meet Larry Fulford in real life and, while not an album, that was one of the Top Things that happened to me all year.


calebcoverCaleb Caudle is an artist that I overlooked for way too long. I remedied that this year when I wrote up the initial review for Paint Another Layer On My Heart and I’m glad I did. One of the things that you find when you listen to and write about as much music as we do here is that some albums are good but in a few months they lose something and drop out of your daily rotation, sure you may queue them up sometimes but it’s the harsh truth that there is only so much time in a day to listen to music. For me what shows the true strength of an album, over time, is how long it stays in regular rotation. Well, Mr. Caudle’s record is still my daily rotation seven months later. I’m, pretty sure that says more than I did in my initial consideration.


leebains-dereconstructed-1425pxDereconstructed, in my opinion, was the most important album of 2014. The argument that Lee starts on this release is one that needs to be had. It is no longer time to couch the debate in niceties, we’ve moved beyond that. The attitude that comes through in these songs is how the issues involved need to be addressed. On top of that, because I’m hesitant to say an album is my favorite because I like its politics, I love the production on Dereconstructed. It was divisive and loud and everyone had an opinion on it which brought more ears to the party than a safe approach would have. This one will have a spot in rotations for years to come.


americanthreadI have often said I don’t like politics in my music but I’m thinking I’ll have to revisit that thought. While there aren’t overt politics on this album the plight of the working man is chronicled on Songs Before The War and that honestly shouldn’t be political but is in this country so that makes this a political album whether it was intended to be or not. And I don’t think it was intended to be, I think this was meant to be an album that people could relate to and find some solace in and it succeeds in that very well. The way Brendan writes songs reminds me of some advice that Rilke gave in “Letters To A Young Poet”: If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. Brendan is quite capable of taking every day life and turning in to art and I think that’s the highest praise I can give any artist.


coverThere are times, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in my review, that one just needs some goddamn rock and roll in their life and We Are Already Dead fill that need quite well. This is music you can knock back a tall boy of your favorite beer to and get to that point where you don’t feel any pain. The songs here would be at home on the jukebox in any dive bar that I’ve darkened the door of and some days that’s just what you want to be listening to when your coworker taps you on the shoulder to complain that, even with you wearing your headphones, he can still hear your music.


CAR061Lost & Rootless came in almost under the radar for a lot a people and I even managed to not write about it in a timely manner and that’s a damn tragedy. On this release we get to witness a shift in Tim’s life through the lens of his music. It’s obvious that the changes in his life have shifted his perspective. There are more ditties and fun to be had here than in the past and things are little less dark on this album than on his others. I think this shift started on 40 Miler and I like that it continues here. Even if you’ve never met Tim it’s easy to feel like you know him through his music because he puts so much of himself in to these records, and so as long he keeps releasing them I’ll keep writing about them and I have no doubt they’ll make the year end list every time!


Cory_Branan_-_coverAt this point I think we can refer to Mr. Branan as venerable without being ironic. The No Hit Wonder is just plain good. Cory isn’t one to limit himself, in any aspect, and that quality really shows in his studio work. If you’ve seen him live then you only have half the picture as it’s more than likely you’ve seen him solo as he usually doesn’t have a band with him on tour. To capture the full genius of this man one must listen to his studio work. I know there are some of you out there that wish he’d release an album where all the songs are what you’ve seen at the shows but let’s face it, it ain’t in the cards. I’d love to see that as well but only if we get them with his full vision for the songs as well. I’m really excited to see this one released on Bloodshot and see them supporting his vision for the music. If I had a crystal ball I think it’d predict a live album sometime in the next little bit, that’s nothing official or even from Cory, it’s a just a feeling.


timThat’s right, Tim Barry makes the list twice! I am not always a fan of live albums as a lot of them fail to capture what makes live music so special but Raising Hell & Living Cheap does a fine job of doing what so many other live offerings fail to do. If you’ve never seen Tim live then you this is pretty damn close to the real experience. There’s just something about being able to hear him ramble on about the songs, life, or whatever pops in to his head that makes the live experience special. That goes for most every songwriter, but once you’ve seen Tim, or listened to this one, you’ll understand why it goes double for him.


coverI almost missed Columbia and I’m damn glad I didn’t. The kids in My Life In Black And White didn’t think it would the sort of thing we’d cover. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for a good punk rock album and that’s exactly what this is. I don’t care if you don’t like middle-school punk or if you get in to all the BS of sub-genres and that rot. I’m just going to call this punk and be done with it. I’m also going to listen to it way too loud and make no apologies. I’d advise you to do the same.


TCR_-_coverTo Hell And Back is a screaming rock album that demands one get their ass in gear and it does it with style. This is what and Americans metal band should sound like. It’s only metal in the way that a lot of Americana is punk, by that I mean you can feel the metal roots in the music but these kids have added their own Kentucky take to everything and made it something completely different. Since AIV wrote about these kids I’ve been able to see them live twice, their bassist, Cory Hanks, has married our interviewer extraordinaire Michelle, and I got to hang with Brian Minks at Holiday Hangout. I think it’s safe to say these kids are as much a part of the 9B family as any of the folks that are on staff.


coverNo Salvation is another one of those albums that deals with every day life but this time it’s one that comes from a punk perspective. And as I make this list I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe I’ve just drifted in to a different perspective. I came up on country music and in that era there was a lot of working class themes in country so it’s no surprise that I’ve never really stopped liking those themes, even if I see them from a different perspective than I did when I was young. This is definetly a darker perspective both musically and lyrically but it’s a perspective that needs to be recognized and The Devil’s Cut does a fine job of putting it in front of us without doing anything more than making kick ass music.


Looking back at a year is always a pain in the ass. I know there are other albums that should be on this list, stuff I’m missing, which is why I always hate doing these. But there you have it, my Top Albums of 2014 in no particular order. I always feel like I’ve screwed up these lists because I already told you about these albums, I’ve already written the reviews, called them Essential Listening, or someone on here has, and now I have to say which ones are better than the others. Yet every year I feel obligated to make one of these. Some years I resist and some years I don’t. I failed to resist this year so you get a list…

AMERICAN THREAD – SONGS IN THE WAR

americanthread

American Thread is one of those bands that can capture the soul of Middle America in a record. They did it with Killing Days and they’ve done it again with Songs In The War. Now there’s a lot of music out there that speaks to the plight of the working man but these kids are a cut above the rest. There’s a pride that runs through their music that’s almost palpable and a wisdom in the lyrics that comes from having lived the songs.

Told me all about your dreams/That you’d burned and thrown away/A barroom beauty queen/With a nose for cocaine/The warmth of your chest/The smell of wine on your breath…

40

I have been waiting for Songs In The War since Brendan first told me has working on it and it was well worth the wait. Like many artists these days this is a self produced album. It was recorded over three days in a cabin out in the Berkshires with frequent trips to the town bar and what they captured out there, the soul of the album, wasn’t lost in the mastering. The heartfelt vocals that made me fall in love with their first album are still there and if anything have become more expresive There’s also something to be said about the addition of Michael Taggart and Kevin Maher, both on guitar, that adds a dimension to music that makes it feel really complete.

Remember that night when I shot out the lights in the bar/I drove off in a mess and I wrecked up my old man’s car/You said don’t come around here, stinking like whiskey/Guess I don’t listen so well girl, it’s probably the Irish in me…

The Irish In Me

Killing Days was more social commentary; Songs In The War is more about how getting older in today’s society isn’t what any of us thought it would be. There’s still the social commentary aspect to it, I don’t think Brendan can write an album without that being there somewhere, but it’s much more understated. The last time I wrote about these kids I said they are what Americans should sound like and I can still stand by that statement. This is music for Middle America that they’ll never hear. Maybe it’s too honest in some places to make it comfortable, maybe it’s a little too Boston for country radio, maybe it’s a lot of things but one thing’s for sure, it’s Essential listening.

It’s really something to be listening to folks, in your age group, writing songs about things that you can relate to. It’s one of the reasons I love what we do here. If I was stuck with the radio I think my life would be a lot more dull and I wouldn’t be nearly as inspired. American Thread is one of the inspirations that makes me happy to do what we do here. Head over their Bandcamp page and pick this one up, you’ll be glad you did.