Drag The River – Self Titled

The best thing about Drag The River’s new self-titled record is that it exists at all. If you’ve followed the band at all you’re aware that they rarely play live and it’s been a number of years since their last “real” release. (Bad At Breaking Up & 2010 Demons being less than full band collections) I went back in the Nine Bullets archive and the first mention of them was in 2006 and the second mention was in 2006 about them breaking up. So the point I’m trying to make is that you should be really fucking excited that these guys made a record for us. And it kicks ass. And it’s Essential Listening.

Drag The River was the band of my college years. We were in the same town and they played a good bit way back then. I left Ft. Collins for eight years and I had a couple of friends who when Drag would play they would call me up during the show and just hold the phone up in the air. I would get voicemail messages where I couldn’t hear shit and they would go on for as long as seventeen minutes. I’m telling you this so you understand that I am totally biased in this review. The music Drag The River has made for the last decade or more is amazing and consistent. And they put the focus on the songs, so while the sound has altered very little from one album to the next, the songwriting is equal to any band in our little world. Jon and Chad’s voices blend together exceptionally well, so much so that even though there are Jon songs and Chad songs they all just sound like Drag songs to me.

Let’s talk about this self-titled record a bit: The first four songs are as rock as anything they’ve released in awhile. To me it feels like a statement; a declaration that this is a band record and that they’re going for it. “Black In Bloom” is the first song that jumps out at me. Chad sings lead on this one and it’s in stark contrast to the somber feel of his solo stuff. The subject is still heavy but it’s exciting to hear it in the context of a rock song.

After the four rock songs the pedal steel makes its first appearance right out of the gate on “Like Longfellows.” It serves as a reminder that Drag The River is essentially a barroom country band (or country and Midwestern) and even though I haven’t seen the vinyl yet, my guess is that “Like Longfellows” is the last song on side A and sets the tone for the B side.

Next up is two songs that have been in the Drag cannon for a few years but get their first full band treatment. From a songwriting perspective “Here’s To The Losers” and “The Other Side Of OK” are the centerpieces of this stellar record. It’s from these two songs that show the real growth in the Drag songwriting.

Before I get into these two songs a little more I want to flashback to what’s probably their most popular song, “Get Drunk” from 2002’s Closed. album. When I mentioned the song to Jon not long ago he said that tune was cursed by its title; that it was about not wanting to be with the one you were with, not about drinking. I would agree and add that it’s also cursed by the opening line and the good-time feel. “Get Drunk” is all emotion, an instantaneous bursting of the things you do love to try to avoid thinking about the person you don’t love anymore. It’s a young man’s way, a way of limited reflection and ignoring what’s really on your mind. “The Other Side Of OK”, off the new record is a rumination on regret, the kind of regret that’s hard for a young man to have.  A line like “Sorry for the things that I did and didn’t say/sorry on the way that I up and ran away/on the other side of OK and the thinking that you should have stayed” is not only filled with regret but it’s also overloaded with painful contemplation. And it’s allowing yourself to reflect that the younger man in “Get Drunk” is staying away from. “On Here’s To The Losers” the reflection and perspective begins with the first line. Although the slightly somber tone can feel like regret to me it’s more about understanding this is who you are. And recognizing a younger version of yourself in the people around you.  It’s a song for the older guy at the bar, and I ain’t old, but there are nights I’m aware that I’m the old guy at the bar. And about being OK with it all because there might not be a tomorrow, but there might be.

I’ll admit that I might have gone a little too music journalist for some of you. Oh well. Don’t hold it against the band and buy this record because the songs are great and the band is dialed in.

I’ve always thought Drag The River had an interesting story. They’re a bar band, maybe one of the best ones that’s ever been, but they never gained as much success as their peers. Regardless of success they seem to be held in high regard by musicians of their own generation and the next generation of our little scene. I know we don’t write feature stories here but I’ve thought I might could write a multi-part story about the band. If you’re interested in reading that kind of thing say so in the comments and I’ll see what I can do.

Drag The River – Black In Bloom
Drag The River – Here’s To The Losers
Drag The River – The Other Side Of OK

Official Site, On Facebook, Buy the new record

NATO COLES & THE BLUE DIAMOND BAND—PROMISES TO DELIVER

It is not news to compare songwriters that we feature on Ninebullets and those featured on MTV and say–see, they’re different! But Nato Coles’ career stands in such stark contrast to everything popular media portrays music careers to look like and what stories pop songs can tell, that the comparison is worth mentioning briefly. Looking over the VMA winners from a few weeks ago, the only songs with any specific details in them at all are Mackelmore’s “Same Love” and “Can’t Hold Us.” They’re on the hip-hop side of pop, where specific details and characterization often come in the form of cultural references, which don’t turn out to be so indicative of real characters, though they do effectively characterize a type of person who would speak in that cultural dialect. I’m not saying details make all songs better or that pop music is stronger for details–Buddy Holly and Barrett Strong songs are general and universal to great ends–but I’m saying that when pop songs, to such a pervasive degree, evade any specific socio-economic, political, or subcultural details of their characters, that it speaks to what we think of ourselves. It speaks to which parts of us deserve to be sung. The parts of us that fall in love and remain as young as possible and have fun–absolutely those deserve songs! The parts that know every TV or fashion reference in a hip-hop song–also meaningful! But the parts of us that make up the rest of our time–the working parts, the misinformed parts, the parts that didn’t make it out of your youth with you–those are fucking important, too. And if Bruno Mars, who I like, can be propped up in front of teens and sing to them “Your sex takes me to paradise” then I think you can give teens or any music fan enough respect to write them a real character and expect them to respond. I mean, any time Tim Barry opens for Gaslight or Against Me, the kids who’d never heard him before walk away loving him forever; so that’s not far off.

Nato Coles writes songs that hammer specific characters into accessible stories. He’s a true statesman of punk, he knows how to play probably every great punk song, he’s been in some of the best unsung bands of the last fifteen years–Modern Machines (from Milwaukee), Used Kids (out of Brooklyn, also featuring badass Kate Eldridge currently of Big Eyes), Radio Faces, and for the past few years he’s been up in Minneapolis fronting The Blue Diamond Band. Over that time his songwriting has steadily risen from basement punk to basement rock. He’s always had one of the strongest senses of rock melody around, and with the Blue Diamond Band the focus is on those catchy and devastating songs. Their first full-length, Promises to Deliver, works as a big song to the unsung–from the luckless subjects of Nato’s songs to his choice to cover “Rudes and Cheaps” by the New York band Bent Outta Shape, who themselves ran out of luck and into tragedy when their frontman Jamie Ewing died at 25. Sonically, the Blue Diamond Band has a place amongst Midwestern bands like the Replacements (though less shambly, at least on record) and “blue collar” rockers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, and Phil Lynott. Say what you will about the financial success of Springsteen and Seger by the time they wrote “Glory Days,” and “Night Moves,” respectively, those songs pack some whalloping choices. I think those are the choices Nato Coles is interested in on this album–how to tell the story of his generation of punks and friends and heroes, how to reconcile the lives they set out to live with where they are now. And Promises to Deliver delivers with fucking awesome anthemic rock music. It works. It’s one of the most compelling and exciting albums of this year. It’s Essential Listening.

Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band – Hard To Hear The Truth
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band – Julie (Hang Out A Little Longer)
Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band – Rudes And Cheaps (Bent Outta Shape cover)

Stream and purchase Promises to Deliver on digital, vinyl, or CD from Dead Broke Records or A.D.D. Records or directly from Nato’s own Bandcamp. Check Nato Coles’ blog and Facebook for his relentless tour schedule. This album really feels to me like a companion piece for the Aaron Cometbus novel I Wish There Was Something I Could Quit, so check that out, too, via the awesome Microcosm Publishing.

ARLISS NANCY – WILD AMERICAN RUNNERS

Last week I talked about being jaded and expecting bands to eventually trip up, and how Have Gun was defying those odds. I thought I’d stick with that theme and talk about Arliss Nancy and their new album, Wild American Runners.

The music industry hasn’t been incredibly kind to these kids from the great state of Colorado. They released their first two albums for free on Death From Above Records before signing to Suburban Home Records for the release of their third album, Simple Machines. Suburban Home promptly closed it’s doors, leaving a ridiculously great album without out any US distribution. Rather than tucking their tails and getting day jobs, the boys pushed forward. All the while their internet buzz kept gaining momentum, and by the point Wild American Runners hit American ears, kids were already shedding former allegiances and donning Arliss Nancy tshirts (I literally own three) at the big shows.

Arliss Nancy’s sound is basically the foundation of what you might call the ninebullets wheelhouse. It’s a pretty simple formula; big guitars, sad songs created because you fucked up one night after too many beers and a properly mistreated set of vocal chords delivering them. But don’t be fooled by the simplicity, like food, the simpler a song is, the easier it is to see and focus on the weakness. With that said, Arliss Nancy have rarely fucked up over their career, and Wild American Runners is no exception.

Wild American Runners is a collection of twelve songs with an over-arching theme of desperation, disappointment and uncertainty. And while you might say there is nothing new about that, I would argue that no one has done it this well since Lucero and Two Cow had to worry about where they would sleep or eat the next night.

The album closes with “Vonnegut”, a song that perfectly captures everything that this 40 minute album offers you in a simple three and a half minutes.

Three chords and desperation is Essential Listening every time it’s done right, genre be damned.

Arliss Nancy – Vonnegut
Arliss Nancy – Benjamin
Arliss Nancy – Wild American Runners

Arliss Nancy on Facebook, Arliss Nancy on Spotify, Buy Wild American Runners

HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL – FICTION, FACT OR FOLKTALE?

It’s a weird thing that happens amongst music fans and, to an even worse extent, music bloggers. We find bands we like, and with each release after we fall for them, we get more and more sure that this will be the album they fuck it all up on. Maybe we’re a culture of mistrust, maybe we’re jaded, or maybe we’re all just assholes, but I see it in our scene (and others) every time I get into music conversations. Mind you, I don’t type this with a wagging finger. I am as guilty, if not moreso, than any of y’all. Which brings us to Fiction, Fact or Folktale?.

Now, a moment of disclosure. I know the Have Gun guys. Very well. We live in the same Tampa Bay area. We see one another out a lot. We share drunken and sober hugs. That said, I didn’t know them when I started writing about them here on 9b and I don’t think a bad review on a mediocre blog would act as any sort of speedbump on their road to wherever they are going in their career.

Now, where were we? Oh yes! The ‘these guys can’t continue on this trajectory’ line of thought. They have to fuck up at some point, right? Including Fiction, Fact or Folktale?, HGWT has released 4 albums as a full band. The first, Casting Shadows Tall As Giants, was a ridiculously high water mark, but the band had managed to top it with each subsequent release. At some point there has to be a regression to the means, right?

Color me an asshole, ‘cause I do believe that, but I can say that the regression is not happening with Fiction, Fact or Folktale?. An album that finds the band as tight as ever, the instrumentation more experimental than any other release and a set of 10 songs that really showcase Have Gun’s trademark of powerful songs with a surprisingly delicate sound.

I offer the album’s closer, “Take Me Home Alice”, as a shining example of the power/fragility dichotomy. Nothing about this song’s music is powerful. Hell, it’s restrained and yielding, but beautiful. You’ll notice it long before you notice a lyric in the song beyond the chorus and that’s why “Take Me Home Alice” won’t be your favorite song on the album the first time you listen to it. Like gumbo, it takes time. A few spins through the album, then you’ll hear the song. The forest instead of the tree. Then you’ll see how well put together the song actually is. Like a complex food dish, it all works together. Nothing can be removed. Nothing is overdone.

And that is what Fact, Fiction or Folktale? is. It’s a well-balanced, incredibly complex and mature album from a group of guys I happen to know personally, but would love their music all the same if they lived in Fargo, North Dakota.

Needless to say, this shit is Essential Listening.

Have Gun Will Travel – Take Me Home, Alice
Have Gun Will Travel – The Show Must Go On
Have Gun Will Travel – Finer Things

Have Gun Will Travel’s Official Site, Have Gun Will Travel on Facebook, Have Gun Will Travel on Spotify, Buy Fiction, Fact or Folktale?

The band is currently on tour. You can catch them in these cities:

FIVER — LOST THE PLOT

“All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots.” ~ Don DeLillo

To try and describe the effect of Simone Schmidt’s voice is to commit yourself to an ill-fated plot. Though she uses prose, guitars, voice–all the usual weaponry of the music we talk about here–she succumbs to none of their standards. Her work lives on a different dimension. It is so slowed down that as it oozes through time and space, it seeps into every dimensional crevice in its path–it could pass through glass, it could saturate wood, it could come from 1974, it’s traveling to your funeral to wait for you. It’ll take up as much space as you give it–between your ears or your side of the Mississippi. It’s pop music for atoms and waves. George Jones taking Neil Young’s drugs. Zombie spirituals. Elemental Listening.

Instead you take the “passive” plot of experiencing Schmidt’s voice. But when your storyteller is as strong as she is, this is no less visceral. She will have your knees buckling in-time to drum machines, your intestines singing “Home on the Range.” The last song is called “Undertaker;” there is, indeed, a deathward trajectory to this thing; if you lose the plot, the plot will find you; still, a passive trajectory that ain’t.

Fiver – Dayton
Fiver – Lonesome In This Grave
Fiver – Smoke & Steam

Find Lost the Plot at Triple Crown Audio Recordings of Canada, at iTunes. Check out Fiver’s original 7″ at their Bandcamp and Indoor Shoes Records. Follow Fiver on Facebook and bookmark Ms. Schmidt’s blog Entropic Forces for news of all her bands (Fiver, One Hundred Dollars, The Highest Order).

Doc Feldman & The LD50 — Sundowning at the Station

Sundowning at the Station is one of the heaviest records you’ll hear all year. The heaviness comes from the mood and Doc’s voice not from the music. It’s an acoustic and, often times, slow record but it’s incredible. There are haunting calls and stomps and vocal deliveries that will rattle your insides.

The first several times I listen to Sundowning at the Station I was at work in my cubicle with the headphones on. I stopped the album midway through several times. Having it right there in my ears, so close and concentrated was too much. It wasn’t the words that stopped me, I wasn’t able to pay attention to the words, it was all of it. Later I found that the second half of the album was an easier listen. The songs “Battle Hymn” and “Bless This Mess” are my favorites, yet after listening to the record in halves I learned to really appreciate the whole.

Sundowning at the Station has been out for a couple of months and apparently it’s made some notable waves in some circles. My twitter was littered with people talking about the Doc Feldman DIYtrotter session not to long ago and reports from the TIAM headquarters have been stellar. There is a Jason Molina cover on that session and I think that’s a great jumping off point if you’re not sure about investing in this record.

It always pleases me when a record that is often times sparse but intense finds an audience. It seems a difficult balance for an artist and it requires more of a listener than other records. Give Sundowning at the Station a few listens as the rewards are slow to come but worth the patience. And yeah, Essential Listening (bolded by Autopsy IV for emphasis).

Doc Feldman & The LD50 – Battle Hymn
Doc Feldman & The LD50 – Bless This Mess
Doc Feldman & The LD50 – A Texas Moan

Official Site, On Facebook, buy Sundowning at the Station

Black Joe Lewis – Electric Slave

I was busy at work in my cubicle the other day when one of my coworkers sent me an email. She asked what I was listening to because I was hoping around in my chair a bit and looked like I was having a really good time. I was afraid to tell her I was listening to “Young Girls” from Black Joe Lewis’ new album Electric Slave because I haven’t been at this job very long and even though I sit in the same room as nine of my coworkers we don’t talk to each other most days. She might be a sport but I could also be written up for sexual harassment just for suggesting Electric Slave.

I’m a novice to Black Joe Lewis but he has seduced my with his abrasive and manic ruminations on life and women and parties. “Young Girls” will be somewhere on my list of favorite songs of the year, it is relentless and fun and uncomfortable all at the same time. I love the howling. There’s no such thing as too much howling when it comes from the depths of struggle and released in pure moments of ecstasy. I may have felt about a girl like BJL does in “Young Girls” but I’ve never been able to put it so eloquently or primordially – so like a caveman grunting Shakespeare or the sound Mrs. Prim & Proper makes when she finally has that really down and dirty wreckless-abandoned sex. Have I gushed about this song enough yet?

At the office they think I’m witty and quiet. Because everyone here is quiet, and these accusations may be true, but there is also a side of me who relishes the dirty, broken and compulsive side of life. These things are found all over Electric Slave and I believe they show a vulnerable element of a person that we don’t see enough of.  BJL is naked on these songs, full aware of it, and slam dancing into you even if you don’t want anything to do with him.

If you’re not sure if you can handle the aggression and belligerent jubilation then listen first to “Come To My Party.” The lyrics here are so simple and amazing and speak to the urges of all male music fans everywhere. “Bring your girlfriend/tell her to bring some friends of her own/gotta keep the ratio right so all the homies have a good time/…/Gonna spin some records man/I got all the good jams/gonna pull the furniture out the living room tonight” But there’s a gruffy desperation in BJL’s voice that lets you know the party is there to help you survive the week that led up to it. I would party at BJL’s house and I’d probably do things there that I wouldn’t do anywhere else and feel good about it. I don’t think this would be the place for my coworkers. Of course, it’s possible someone in a cubicle across the room is listening to Electric Slave and they would never think I was capable of tuning my ears to it.

Black Joe Lewis – Young Girls
Black Joe Lewis – Come To My Party
Black Joe Lewis – The Hipster

Official Site, BJL on Facebook, Buy Electric Slave

 

TERROR – LIVE BY THE CODE

Hey guys. Admittedly, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written a review but trust me; I’ve been listening to the music and my motivation levels seem to have increased so I think I’m ready to dehermit for the most part. I know dehermit isn’t an actual work but if twerk is in the dictionary I feel perfectly comfortable with dehermit usage.

What better band to come out of the gates with than the brand new album from LA’s own Terror. Now, I gotta be honest. When it comes to the angry young men and their angry cries, I am pretty ignorant to the scene and it’s inevitable sub-genres. Screemo, Crab rock, Punk, Hardcore, Metal, Gridcore….it all goes by one name in my head: metal. That said, according to their wiki page Terror is a “hardcore punk” band based out of LA and Raleigh. Being ignorant of the modern metal scene for all I know Terror is considered shitty. Pop. Sell-outs. Posers. Blah blah blah. But for a 40 year old man, such as myself, Terror’s new album, Live By The Code is so reminiscent of Urban Discipline era Biohazard it feels like it should have been the followup to it.

I feel like now is a good time to tell you that I played Urban Discipline so many times when it came out I wore the tape out in 6 months. I literally (proper usage) slept to it, woke to it (obviously), drove to work to it, drove home from work to it……wash, rinse, repeat. And, truth be told, if it were not for modern technology and the .mp3 file format Live By The Code would be headed for the same fate. Needless to say, this album is not for every 9b reader, but it’s for some of us…..and for those, I tell you, this is Essential Listening.

Terror – Shot Of Reality
Terror – Hard Lessons
Terror – Good Die Young

Terror’s Official Site, Terror on Facebook, Terror on Spotify, Buy Live By The Code

LENNY LASHLEY'S GANG OF ONE–ILLUMINATOR

The single best record buying experience I’ve ever had ever ever was the day Lenny Lashley’s first Gang of One 7″ came in the mail. I didn’t know Lenny beyond the Piss Poor Boys record (the DTR cover, etc.) and I didn’t know anything about this record beyond the fact that it existed–Snodgrass mentioned it in an interview. The record was #HF001, the first and, so far, only release by a record store in Asbury Park called Hold Fast. They sent me the Record Store Day release-party edition of the 7″– a picture disc and a flyer autographed by the Gang of One, which I was surprised to learn wasn’t just Lenny. Reading the autographs, my jaw dropped lower and lower: Joe “the Kid” Sirois from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Streetdogs! Pete “The Pete” Steinkopf and Bryan “Papillon” Kienlen from THE BOUNCING SOULS, the band that changed the course of my life at nine years old. I never expected to see those names in my mailbox. I never expected the songs to be so great. And that’s what this band feels like to me now–a surprise family reunion. You never know when this band will show up, but when they do it’s with such warmth, sincerity, and lack of bullshit that it feels like exactly the hug you need so badly. That was in 2011; now the Gang of One full-length is finally finally out! Family sometimes disappoints (not blaming) but the Gang of One doesn’t. This is Essential Listening.

Illuminator picks up where the 7″ left off with a holy, sanctimony-devoid, bar-rock-street-punk-country-soul sound that nobody else does. The Gang of One offers no airs; this is not a mysterious band; I don’t think they expect strangers to listen to their records. However true that is, the record certainly comes out uncanny. Think about what a music career has given Lenny Lashley–from his Boston punk band Darkbuster, who were hometown battle-of-the-bands champs in their time but don’t get talked about at all anymore, to the quiet original release of the Piss Poor Boys record, the botched Suburban Home reissue, a broken hand, a nervous breakdown–it’s made him dear in many hearts, and I don’t mean to speak for him, but I’m sure it has been hard as fuck and not reliably profitable.

And then think about what this guy still gives to music–this album, this lonely and brilliant thing, the hard-won concord he’s able to anthemize, the desolation he balladates–he gives it his therapy, he trusts his zen assets, his songs, to a world/audience/void he knows isn’t going to fix much for him, but it’s still stabilizing to try–still a flexing of trust like what happens after finally seeing your parents as mortal, mistaken people, or watching a loved one move out, or standing by while a career demystifies without reward–it all comes back to you and things you can’t keep from admitting to yourself and finding a strength you can build with after that deconstruction. That’s what this band is about to me. Recalibrating your compassion and your self-worth in the face of total shit. Lenny Lashley is great at writing songs that deal and move on. Every single song on this album is important to that end. And he ends the album, either stubbornly or heroically, with the lines, I could never reach out and go that way anymore / I don’t need re-covering / I’m fine the way I am.” Deal, sing along, and go.

Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One – U.S. Mail
Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One – White Man
Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One – Happily

Stream Illuminator at New Noise Magazine. Buy the physical from Pirate’s Press Records or Panic State Records. Buy the digital from iTunes, but Panic State also sells a digital version for cheaper, so buy it from them.

AUSTIN LUCAS – STAY RECKLESS

stay-reckless

If someone asked me what Americana sounded like I could simply hand them a copy of Stay Reckless. It has all the elements that make up the genre that encompasses most of the music we write about ’round these parts. It opens with a great rock `n’ roll riff and takes us on a journey through country, folk, bluegrass, and even punk influences while Austin shares his life with us. With 9B favorites Glossary as his band on this one, the music couldn’t be any tighter and I can’t think of a way that this record could sound any better. As far as I’m concerned it defines Americana better than any other single album in the past decade. In short this is one damn near perfect record from start to finish.

At its heart this is a break up album. Penned mostly during his marriage falling apart and the inevitable aftermath, these songs may be some of the most personal to come from Austin yet and folks that’s saying something. Having been through a divorce myself some of these songs cut deep. I’ll be honest with you, I can’t listen to “Rings” if I’ve had more than two whiskeys, at least not without breaking down and crying. The really scary part is that that’s not even the most intense track on the record. “Splinters” has made me tear up just driving at night and is my favorite track, how could it not be with the Meatloaf references taking me back to the winter of 1989. I love all of Austin’s work but this is by far the album I can relate to the most.

I hope I am not giving the impression that Stay Reckless is all sad bastard songs; it’s most assuredly not! Even with the shitty circumstances that birthed this album Austin manages to thread some hope through the damn thing and not wallow in his misery as some folks are wont to do. Taking something as personal as a divorce, turning it in to lyrics, and then putting out there for the world to experience takes a lot bigger balls than I have. To turn it in to Essential Listening without it being a pity party takes a fucking helluva lot of talent. So thank you Mr. Lucas for sharing yourself with us. We are better for it.

Austin Lucas – Rings
Austin Lucas – Different Shade Of Red
Austin Lucas – Splinters

Austin Lucas’s official website
Austin Lucas on Facebook
Austin Lucas on Twitter

As an aside, if you haven’t seen Austin Lucas and Glossary play together you ain’t been livin’! It’s a seven course meal for the soul.