MUSIC REVIEWS

By John B Moore

Old Crow Medicine Show
Live At The Ryman (Columbia Records & The Orchard)

There is no venue more appropriate for Old Crow Medicine Show to record their live album in than Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, the 125 year old historic landmark that was once formerly known as the Grand Ole Opry and is essentially mecca for Country, Bluegrass, Americana and all of the various offshoots. It also happens to be the local venue for the brilliantly talented Nashville-based Americana String Band Old Crow Medicine Show and has been their go-to stage in Nashville since 2001.

This 11 track album, which perfectly captures the band's exhilarating live show – in this case the songs were taken from a slew of sets performed at the Ryman over the years - is also a love song of sorts to the venue. The band plays a number of standards that have echoed through the auditorium for years like "CC Rider," "Sixteen Tons" and the gospel classic "Will the Circle be Unbroken." The band also finds time to include some of their own classics like "Bushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer" and a raucous version of "Methamphetamine." The highlight however is the duet with Margo Price on the infectiously catchy "Mississippi Woman."

It's hard to imagine a live album able to perfectly capture the spirit and vibe of an Old Crow Medicine Show, but Live At The Ryman is probably the closest we'll ever get.

The Subjunctives
Sunshine And Rainbows (Top Drawer Records)

Seattle, the city that brought you grunge, and one of the only emo bands that every really mattered (Sunny Day Real Estate), is not the first place you think of for witty, melodic warp speed pop punk. But The Subjunctives just might change that.

On Sunshine And Rainbows, the trio reel through 15 blistering tracks in just over 30 minutes, leaving you both spent and wanting more. The band spans a couple of separate generations including Ean Hernandez on vocals/guitar (Sicko, Date Night With Brian), Jeff Mangalin on vocals/bass (Four Lights) and drummer Matt Coleman. They namecheck bands like Stiff Little Fingers and Husker Du, both which are spot on giving their knack for writing loud, fast leads with whip smart lyrics, but they also bring to mind a number of Lookout bands in the label's heyday, as well an American version of The Damned and The Buzzcocks.

Even at more than a dozen tracks, you'd be hard pressed to find a single song that could have been sacrificed (even a track like "One More Year," with a so-so start, pulls it out soon after with a brilliant singalong chorus that stays with you long after the last chord stops ringing). There are a handful of standout tracks including the self-explanatory "The Fastbacks Are The Greatest Band In History, So FUCK YOU." A mighty bold declaration that's hard to ignore given this brilliant pop punk rally cry.

Sunshine And Rainbows, the band's first proper LP, is a pretty bold clarion call for a revival of classic pop punk - an era before Soundcloud musicians and Hot Topic punk rockers - and a hopefully promise of what's to come.

Brett Newski
Live in Wisconsin (Self-Released)

For close to a decade now, Brett Newski has been living the troubadour life. And not, "oh, that guy tours for a month at a time, he's a real troubadour." No, the Wisconsin-based musician Newski, began his career in 2011 with a six-month Southeast Asia tour. He followed it up the next year with a 20-date South African tour and has pretty much been on the road ever since – playing festivals, opening for everyone from the Violent Femmes to Barenaked Ladies, to playing living room and basement shows. Sometimes with a buddy on drums, but more often than not traversing the globe alone, his live shows are a thing of wonder and beauty. Part stand up, part serenade, he even manages to play his own backbeat through foot pedals, accompanying himself on guitar and occasionally the kazoo.

It's a wonder that it's taken him this long to put out a live record. He does a good job of filling 14 tracks here with a nice cross section of music from his last few albums, from the deeply comical ("DIY") to the slightly more earnest ("Ride"), with plenty of his charmingly witty banter interposed throughout.

While it hasn't completely captured the feel of a Newski live show – that would be virtually impossible - it does a pretty admirable job. Live In Wisconsin is certainly worth picking up and playing on repeat until Newski comes through your town again. And based on his track record, that's probably just a few weeks from now.

Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue
The Collection (Rave On Records)

In the late-70's singer/bassist Roger C. Reale pulled together an impressive power trio featuring G.E. Smith on guitar and drummer Hilly Michaels. The band, dubbed Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue, would release their lone LP, Radio Active, in 1978. Amping up the guitars on the follow up, they brought in Mick Ronson (David Bowie, Ian Hunter) and Jimmy McAllister (Sparks), two of the best guitarists going at the time.

But, thanks to a mediocre commercial showing with that debut, despite critical raves, the label had little appetite for releasing their second album, Reptiles In Motion, even though it had already been recorded. Flash forward four decades and Reale finally gets ownership back of his own material and has found a home for those orphaned songs. Under the title The Collection, Reale is re-releasing the debut alongside that long-abandoned follow up.

The Collection is a perfect time capsule of rock music in the late 1970s, when punk was still emerging and meshed perfectly with the straight ahead rock at the time. There is a nice gritty New York Dolls vibe to Reale's vocals and the guitars sound beautifully menacing. Of the two, the second album, with the additional power of Ronson and McAllsiter, is the more satisfying record, showing a lot more depth to the music.

Songs like "Radioactve" (ironically the name of their debut, but not a song until the second record) and the poppier "One More Try" and "Make It be Over" sound incredible even 40 years later. It's yet another near tragic example of commercial response (nearly) killing a great record. Thankfully, Reale was finally able to rescue it.

Dogmatics
She's The One (Rum Bar Records)

Long before the current generation of garage rock punks were even birthed, the Dogmatics were pioneers of the genre, with the band's brilliant 1986 debut a handful of other releases before disappearing for close to 30 years. The Boston band is finally back with the 5-tarck She's The One EP and time has certainly been kind to the band.
The themes of this album are wildly, pleasantly all over the place, from the title track; the self-explanatory "I Love Rock and Roll;" an ode to summer ("Summertime"); a track about Trump's outrageously out of touch Secretary of Commerce ("The Ballad of Wilbur Ross"); and a closing tune about footwear ("Black Plastic Shoes"). Throughout the band tears through each song with frantic, fun abandon.

Who knows what prompted this reunion, three decades years later, but it's clear that they've managed to sand away any possible rust that may have settled in over the past several decades, offering a revisiting of a band that always deserved a much wider audience beyond their native Boston. She's The One could very well be the release to make that happen.

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