Devouring “This Machine Still Kills Fascists” – Dropkick Murphys and Woody Guthrie

I was brought up with a deep, possessive love for folk music. It was often flanked with a love of punk rock, dark industrial, and new wave – but it always came back to folk. The sounds of Bob Dylan are most prevalent in my ears as my father is truly one of the biggest Dylan fans I have ever known. I was raised on it. He gave me a deep love for his work which included understanding where his work came from. It meant knowing a variety of books. It meant a strong love of good wit. It meant knowing Woody Guthrie.

It helps that I am from Northern New Jersey, right on the other side of the county line from the hauntingly impressive stone behemoth, Greystone Psychiatric Hospital (RIP). Greystone was a gorgeous old Kirkbride hospital where Woody Guthrie was committed in 1956 after being picked up for vagrancy in nearby Morristown. At that time, he was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia when in reality he had inherited Huntington’s Disease. It would take him from this world 11 years later, but he spent five years in Greystone. As much of a legend as Woody already was for having been a prolific folk singer and writer, he was a local one for us having spent time nearby. One of my most prized possessions is a hardcover book of musings and photographs about his time there, “Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty”.

Woody was a legendary man who yearned to understand what he wrote and write what he understood. He wrote about the struggles of ordinary Americans. From his true tales of dust bowl struggles to his very real letters about a terrible, racist landlord by the name of Trump, Guthrie’s words live on in an almost legendary level of parallel to things we are battling with today. He was a champion for the working class and famously wrote in favor of unions and against fascism. His very famous guitar emblazoned with the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” conjures feelings of true solidarity in words that inspire as they tell the stories of families just trying to live as best they can all over this country. It should be no surprise that when a band was given the opportunity to put music to words of his that had never been sung before, it would be the Dropkick Murphys that took it on.

Few bands represent unions and blue collar the way Dropkick have always tried to. Proudly Boston and proudly working class, they have given us spirited live shows and songs with the best kind of sing-a-long, shoving comradery. Irish-infused punk rock that gives love to unions and military, telling great stories through song that conjure memories of younger days when we could be a bit stupid, drunk, and proud – and taking no shit whatsoever. During the COVID shutdowns, we enjoyed that we still got to experience their St Patrick’s Day shows via live stream. It was a bright spot in a dark time. Even for this Cornish/Scottish folk punk hippie girl who has never been to Massachusetts.

A few years ago, I got a job working in midtown Manhattan for the publishing company that protects the works of several folk legends, most notably Woody Guthrie. At the time, they were in a battle to protect the rights to This Land is Your Land and I was so inspired that anyone would put so much into the preservation of important music. I absolutely HAD to work there. I was just doing royalty processing which was blindingly boring data entry, but the names and songs I was entering all day were legendary and as such, gave me a weird sense of pride and joy. It rejuvenated a slumbering desire in me to delve deeper into the music that had fueled so much of me up to that point. I was already mildly obsessed with the work of Woody Guthrie. Now I was full blown invested in knowing and feeling as much as I could.

I was only at that job a few months as I struggled with my health and the long commute into the city from rural NJ every day (sometimes I miss sunrises on the bus – I do not miss being stuck on it for 7 hours in the snow), but I will forever see it as an honor that I got to work there and I am thankful for the spark it gave back to the folkie in me.

I have often been fascinated by the fact that one of the most well known songs from Dropkick Murphys, Shipping Up To Boston, was in fact the words of Woody Guthrie. It’s tidbit of information that I (annoyingly, I’m sure) like to whip out in conversation. It’s no mystery to anyone who knows me that I love Woody Guthrie. Recently, I saw video of Ken Casey ripping into a crowd about “stolen” elections and telling folks to stop believing the nonsense. The people fueling this are the wealthy who don’t care about you. There was much warmth in my heart seeing him going off on that tangent but it was also a knowing nod from me – you cannot devour the words and works of Woody Guthrie and be a part of the MAGA cultism. It’s two completely different planets. There was something very validating seeing him say those words with the frustration that he did.

When I heard they were putting out “This Machine Still Kills Fascists” with the original words of Woody Guthrie, I was so excited to hear what they would do with those words. I can only imagine the treasure trove of words that must exist and how many ideas are waiting for the right ear and heart. There was an early release of the track “Ten Times More” and it did not disappoint. With its stomping beats and rhythmic, chanting lyrics, it almost sounds like a call to action the way they put it together. Something to sing as you march to gather. That march that seems almost constant – for our rights, for our freedoms, for our lives moving forward. “Not once, not twice, but ten times more.” It’s incredibly relevant right now.

The track was an inspiring taste into what they did with the full project.

The album itself is short, coming in at 30 minutes and 23 seconds while still boasting 10 strumming, marching, gorgeously inspired tracks. “All You Fonies” is a favorite of mine. A wonderful chant of “All You Fonies Bound To Lose” will be a fantastic audience participation when Dropkick brings this around for us to enjoy live. The song is a fantastic rallying cry for those standing on the line fighting for fair wages and conditions, even as we sit in 2022 when this should have already been settled so long ago. It’s a truly amazing thing for Woody (I think) to have his words being used for the same purposes he wrote them. To educate, to excite, to help bring change. This song is so well done – see if you can sing along and not feel inspired.

“Dig A Hole” is a true and genuine treasure. It’s the recorded vocals of Woody Guthrie, brought forth from the archives where it was held carefully and with love, put to music by the gents in Dropkick, and matched with the vocals from Ken and the boys. Woody’s part had originally been recorded for Smithsonian Folkways but had never been released. The song was written about the realities of World War 2 and digging a hole to bury your deceased enemies – specifically, the fascists. The Nazis. It’s a powerful song. I am reminded of the footage I have seen of Ukraine soldiers. I have often wondered what Woody would think about what’s happening over there.

Another notably powerful song is the opening track, “Two 6’s Upside Down”. It tells a story of gambling, of living hard, shooting the man who stole and then left his girl, and going to jail. The main character was given “99 years” – two 6’s upside down. It’s got a fantastic chugging feel to the song as they tell the story and you can feel the sorrow and the frustration. It’s really well done.

The whole album is a breath of fresh air these days. I have made mention in previous blogs, especially during the pandemic and the last administration, that modern folkies and punk rock artists were missing the mark on releasing relevant music. The protest songs of days gone by that inspired emotion in those fighting against so much have all gone quiet. Their singers and writers having long retired or passed from this world. Modern songs remain mired in lost loves and whiskey bottles while the world burns. Thank fucking goodness for the words of Woody Guthrie and the music of the Dropkick Murphys for bringing it all back to the surface. We are all fighting against so much these days. We fighting for fair wages, fair housing, medical care that won’t bankrupt us, having enough to eat and clean water to drink. We fight for equality. We fight for our very rights and the rights of our children. There is much to be said for having a fresh batch of songs to inspire us on the picket lines, the protest parades, and in the clubs when we get together for a little stress relieving music fellowship.

This Machine Still Kills Fascists was recording with care at The Church Studio in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s very near the Woody Guthrie center, an archive and cultural center run by Nora Guthrie, Woody’s daughter. Her son Cole played guitar and Dobro on the record, bringing things all the more full circle. It was Cole’s love of Dropkick that first brought them to Nora’s attention many years ago (or so I read) which makes me smile – as a Woody fan and as a mom who often trades songs with my son who is also a punk fan, a budding folkie, and a musician. The best news of all is that there are another ten tracks in addition to these that will be released on a Volume 2 some time next year. I am here for it. I can’t wait.

Your author…

WE ARE BACK!

I apologize if we have had to be down for a few weeks. The unthinkable happened and had to be dealt with.

By that, I mean that our former hosting service, GoDaddy, royally screwed me. We had everything through them for years. I am NOT tech savvy so I didn’t realize how much I was being nickel and dimed for my services. I just knew what I needed and I paid for it. When I was in the hospital dealing with my MS a couple months back, I had hit a billing snag as I had not realized there was a connection issue all of a sudden between my bank and PayPal. Instead of reaching out to me, Go Daddy just let the situation sit and eventually pulled my site down and all of the stuff I had not yet archived. (don’t lecture me…it’s been a rough couple years with this strange disease)

They assured me, as I cried, that none of my work could be found and I was SOL. I freaked out on social media and thankfully some folks who are way smarter than me pointed me to the Wayback Machine who had (thankfully) archived a lot of my pages. Much of what I thought I lost was saved.

AND Thanks to the fantastic guy who operates DP Hosting here in New Jersey, we are back up and running. (www.dphosting.com) <—- highly recommended.

Now the hard part has begun as I have to pull twelve years of archives and put them all back on the website and attempt to configure them in the right orders. I am doing my best to indicate original posting dates but forgive me if I goof up a few. It’s been a long few weeks with this! We are just SO thankful that this blog was saved. I didn’t realize just how much work would have been lost. We have been doing this for a long time. I wrote a lot in twelve years…

So anyways… what’s new with YOU?! Did you have a nice summer?!

This is my face.

Warwalking with Don Ryan and the Black Canvas Movement – Pts 1 and 2

Originally posted on January 26, 2022

Well over a decade ago, I was doing a radio show at the Pocono Internet Broadcasting Company in Stroudsburg, PA. Driving across the Delaware once a week was not enough for me to devour this music I loved. More than that, I wanted to connect the music to people who might not have heard it yet, so I decided to start a blog as a sidecar to my show. When our studios closed and I moved to podcasting from home, the blog became even more of a focus. One of the first artists I ever reviewed and wrote about was New Jersey’s own Don Ryan. I loved his indie folk style and the way his music dragged you into his thoughts and through the brush with him. It’s still one of my most favorite pieces that I ever wrote across all the platforms I had the privilege of writing for.

Imagine my enthusiasm when he announced a new album! Unfortunately, COVID happened, my life flew into craziness, and here I am two years late on telling you all about this amazing collection of songs by one of my favorite home grown musicians. I’m sorry I was tardy, folks. Let me tell you about Don Ryan.

Don Ryan is gravelly, pulverant New Jersey set to music. He writes music that feels like the underbelly. The romanticly sabulous side of us all. I think when some people who don’t live here think of us, they think of the “us” that tv and movies portray. They think of the shore or some sort of Italian-American culture. They think of Bon Jovi or Bruce Springsteen. They see smoke stacks and boardwalks. The truth is though that New Jersey music is a deep pool written by mountains, lakes, abrasive reality and a lot of coffee. It’s traffic and wildlife. It’s the outskirts of the city and the backyard of suburbia. It’s rural America. It’s produce. It’s a drive on Clinton Road, trying desperately to experience something that may or may not be there. It’s stone homes that stood since Washington marched through. It’s marshes and ports. It’s late night diners and early morning convenience stores. We have a culture that people have tried for a long time to define and never made it beyond taylor ham/pork roll arguments and The Sopranos. That just doesn’t cut it.

Since I first heard his early release of Tangle Town so many, many years ago, I feel like listening to Don Ryan’s music is a visceral experience in what New Jersey is, strained through your soul and wrung out of your jeans at the end of the long night. It’s like night time drives down sparsely lit roads when the weather is warm enough for the windows down. When you know if you stop the car and get out, you might get scared but as long as you stay in the car you can enjoy how that sense of fear delicious. His songs are thoughtful and almost spiritual in their delivery. His vocals go between throaty and deep and lightly laid down. It’s music I never get bored of. It’s music you close your eyes and enjoy while your mind wanders.

And this new music is so much of that. 

These new songs comprise a gorgeous two part record called Warwalking, Pt. 1 and Warwalking Pt. 2. They feel like a hardback collection of memories and musings you found in an abandoned hotel. It’s dripping with experiences that permeate everything you are. Relatable and soothing in their trip between melancholy and exasperation. The music is an indie-folk trip into chaos. Take for example the track King of the Clowns on Pt 2. It twists and turns as it pulls you along behind, as if dragged by hand through a carnival funhouse with lights flashing and music blaring. You are so entranced, out of control and hyper-stimulated while having no idea what is around the next corner – but you are guided, never alone, your hand held. It’s exquisite and engrossing and everything I love about this songwriting.

Murder Industry, my favorite track on either record, carried a similar vibe but with a stomping and melodic groove that seems to carry you around the grounds.  On Pt 1., the song Color In, Color Out is equal parts haunting and entrancing but at the same time all consuming in its beauty. The vibe rises and moves toward climax, building anticipation with it’s tone before reaching that peak and dropping off. Quite like life. Lady Codone on Pt. 2 is another gritty and captivating melodic journey. It’s got an almost ballroom dance affection while it spins, rises and falls. The groove holds you in that way and makes you want to move with it in dance.

Don informed me there us an upcoming Warwalking Pt. 3 and I honestly can’t wait. I would love to see this project performed live and as soon as we can chase this COVID cloud away from us long enough, I hope to get that opportunity. In the meantime, I strongly suggest you get over to Don’s website at https://www.donryanmusic.com/ and keep updated. Check out his two beautiful records, Warwalking Pt 1 and Warwalking Pt 2 and experience this marvelous audible journey.

GROW with DOPAPOD on 2/20/22

Originally posted on February 12, 2022

It’s a cold day in New Jersey. Despite a little sunshine, it’s 11 degrees. The trees have no leaves. Everything carries a thin chalky gray coating of salt that smears on your coat if you get too close. It’s midwinter and I have the blues. Then I got an email.

There is new Dopapod coming.

I repeat, THERE IS NEW DOPAPOD COMING.

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The band put out the track “Think” recently and I have had that in fairly heavy rotation. It’s rocking (killer guitar, heavy hitting drums) while still being a bit plucky. It has really had me in a mode for full on devouring of every hang up and struggle from the last year to just dance. A truly welcome respite from reality but it was just one song…

This month on the palindrome date (obviously) of 2-20-22, the world shall be blessed with the official release of the band’s new single “Grow”. Someone somewhere must still value my opinion and that of you wonderful readers because I got a taste of this new goodness in my in-box and let me tell you something: the Jersey winter just got a whole lot warmer with this in my ears.

The track busts in with the funky groove we all love from Dopapod. Clean, funky tapping synth and sexy bass with steady drum beats and scratchy guitar. That wonderful blending of sounds and feels that are every reason we follow these gentlemen is front and center in this track from the moment it opens. It has you shaking what you got out back for a good minute and a quarter before the vocals come in with good swirling vibes and those amazing harmonies. The lyrics are powerful – legit and hopeful. The whole track has a strong feel of summer with bare feet on matted grass, hands on cold beverages, and a momentary release of worries that we enjoy in that moment as an audience member to powerful music. It rises and falls, ebbs and flows, but the energy never for even a moment lets up. That beat holds you nice and tight and you will be moving with it. I love this song and I am so freaking excited by it!

“Big things have small beginnings.”

They sure do, guys. And I think we all really needed to hear that from you right now.

After two plus years of hopelessness and isolation, this is exactly what I was hoping for from the jam community in terms of new music. I feel like I have been sitting here, tapping my foot and looking at my watch going, “ok fam…any time now” waiting on new music to bring our energy back the heck up and maybe even put us back in a dancing crowd together safely so we can remember how it feels to FEEL. Everything has been so bleak and add to that the fact that it’s just the dirty snow and bitter cold part of winter, and you really start to wonder where the hope went.

Where the light is.

We are desperately in need of fire and strength, set to something we can dance to, and leave it to Dopapod to truly understand the assignment. They are here to hand us that fire with “Grow”.

Grow is a fantastic track and truly everything that is great about this band. It’s four stellar and smart music writer and expert players creating a tapestry of sound that transforms and transports the listener. I cannot wait to catch this song live just to see all the weird and wonderful places the guys will take the jams encased within it. They are just sitting there, patiently waiting to be released. I want to be there when they are set free.

Speaking of releases, I will be posting the links on the blog and social media as soon as “Grow” is up and live on 2/20/22! I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled and be ready to shake the dust off. This song is everything we have been waiting for.

Follow the band on https://www.dopapod.com/ for more and to see where the band will be when they hit the road – tour dates are already posted!

LIVE PEAK – New! Hot Clips Vol. 2 and Upcoming Shows!

Originally posted April 12, 2022

Why does it seem so long since we have all been able to get together and dance to a great live band? Probably because it has been. At least for us. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have only been to one large show in New York City (Bad Religion) and one smaller show nearby in Stanhope, outdoors (Twiddle). Mostly though we still watch from afar. Live streams, vlogged shows, live albums. I am not upset about it. Aside from being a little medically fragile, I have grown to quite enjoy ready access to cheap drinks and a clean bathroom with no line. However, I deeply miss that live energy. The palpable energy of a room full of people digging hard on the same grooves you are. Even better, a field full of people digging those grooves, dancing under the lights, the stars, feeling the sounds permeate their soul.

Since mandates have been lifted and large populations have been vaccinated, there is hope that some semblance of normalcy can resume in the world of music venues and shows. With COVID rolling on with less gusto but no sign of going away for good, we are cautiously emerging, vaccinated and sanitizing, from our caverns of sourdough bread making and working from home to gather again in the church of live music. And I’m here for it.  I crave that energy like a life force, and I long to feed that craving again on the regular.

I can’t wait to do it with one of my very favorite bands in recent years in just a few days…

This Friday, Brooklyn’s psychedelic indie funk quartet PEAK will be bringing us all out of the dark when they hit the Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ with Uncle Stump. One of the most fun live bands I have ever had the pleasure of getting to know, PEAK brings fantastic songwriting and steady beat dance jams that will keep you moving until you think you might explode from the energy. Purely stated, they are a lively, fun live show put on by some of the most talented players in the scene and if you have not caught them yet, you need to be there. Don’t take my word for it – you are being given a preview!

In addition to live show news, I am delighted to bring you new music news! PEAK is back with the second installment of their Hot Clips series featuring selections from their summer and fall shows in 2021. Comprised of songs off their two previous studio albums, a few unreleased songs, and even a Mac Demarco cover, this selection of jams gives you a taste of what PEAK brings to the room when they show up and throw down. Songwriter and guitarist Jeremy Hilliard (Turbine), drummer Kito Bovenshulte (Particle), Josh T. Carter (Haley Jane and The Primates) on bass, and keyboardist Johnny Young (Mick Taylor Band) create this incredible collective of soaring jams, dance beats, and rock out moments captured in the Hot Clips series. PEAK is something spectacular to witness live with the kind of honest energy and songwriting that has been lacking in the jam scene in recent years. It’s one thing to be talented, but the songs are exceptionally written and the shows are the kind of fun that you just get lost in. It’s an experience. I feel like I throw PEAK at my readers a lot, but I have yet to have one come back to me anything other than floored by their experience with them. If you are new to PEAK, let Hot Clips, Vol. 2 be your introduction.

One of my very favorite PEAK tracks, especially live, kicks off the collection – Path Paved With Roses. It’s a track off the band’s last studio album, Choppy Water, that brings super fun danceable beats with singable lyrics. This version dissolves into a steady, trippy jam. There is also a gorgeous version of the track Starlight Child in this collection that brings a sick jam with ripping guitar and crazy heady bass over an insane blend of drums and keys before delicately dropping back into the chorus and finishing precise. Their cover of Mac Demarco’s Freaking Out The Neighborhood is a really fun version that highlights each ridiculously good player in this band. The solo’s flow from Johnny’s impossibly good key work into Jeremy’s guitar shred. The whole time, Kito is absolutely destroying the drums and Josh is absurdly ripping on bass. Then the jam kicks in – slow and spacy first and then picks up the pace. It climbs steadily, holds you for a minute, and freaking explodes in a righteous climax and it’s over. (The original version of this song has an amusing backstory that I encourage you to Google). This is one of my favorites to see PEAK do live. It freaking RIPS. 

Here is the track list for Hot Clips, Vol. 2:

Path Paved With Roses

Vanishing Skies

Run Me Down

In My Mind I’m Already Gone

Freaking Out the Neighborhood

Missionary Ridge

It’s Easy To Give Up (Don’t Give Up Too Easy)

Starlight Child

The band will be celebrating this release this Saturday the 16th when they hit the Gramercy Theater in support of Lespecial. If you can’t make Friday’s Stanhope House show, I heartily encourage you to get yourself to NYC and catch them there for Saturday. The show will be a rager for sure! In fact, the band is doing FEE FREE tickets for $22. Just Venmo them your details to @PEAKtheband, $22, and your tickets will be at WILL CALL at the Gramercy Theater. How about that goodness?

In the meantime, you can check out Hot Clips, Vol. 2 (live) everywhere that excellent music streams. 

Peep the link:

https://peak2.hearnow.com/hot-clips-vol-2-live

The band is out on tour this spring and adding shows all the time. Get out there and check them! If you plan to hit the Stanhope House, I’ll see you there!

Get Carried Away With The Debut from Western Skies, “Awake in a Dream”

Originally posted May 27, 2022

I have been writing this blog for over ten years now and I can’t possibly think of how many times I have expressed what an absolute whore for tasty vocals I am. I love vocals. I grew up on folkie singer songwriters and blossomed into an absolute nerd for vocal heavy music as I aged. I love hearing someone tell me a story. I love hearing someone explain their joy, heartache, or just absolute confusion to me with their voice. My funky bassist husband and I constantly discuss his love for instrumental albums and songs and how it just doesn’t hold the same appeal for me as it does him. I need vocals. I love vocals. I crave the emotion that comes from a voice. It’s just what moves me.

Do you agree?

If you do, I have something absolutely delicious for you to check out.

There is this wonderful collaboration of musicians who love music and specifically vocal driven music called Western Skies. The band derived its name from a song they wrote that had a feel of that very thing which encompasses so much of this band to me – FEEL. Legend has it they were validated in this choice of name later when watching a documentary on Crosby, Stills, and Nash and heard Jimi Hendrix describe their sound as “Western Sky Music“. That sounds positively perfect.

Comprised of Singer-songwriter Stephen Bard, musician-vocalist Dan Rappaport, vocalist Natasha DiMarco, and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Liatsis, Western Skies brings forth a beautiful blend of guitars and vocals that create a uniquely soul-forward sound. It has a purity and cleanliness in its feel while putting out a very BIG emotionally charged display of talent and understanding for sound. It’s the kind of sound that transports you and I am so excited for you all to hear it.

The debut album from this spectacular group is called Awake in a Dream. It’s gorgeous and grabs you on your insides in all those wonderful ways that music can. The track that kicks off the album is called “Always Another Song” and if you dig vocal heavy songs, you will be hooked immediately. The harmonies here are beautiful and they absolutely soar. There is undeniably clear influence from other harmony heavy artists like Crosby, Stills, and Nash present in this song and that feel just carries. It’s not just the vocals either. The song itself is beautifully crafted and the incredible guitar work of Liatsis is present throughout. The next track that really blew my hair back was “Hardest Pill” for its back and forth, push and pull feel. It’s got such a traditional, classic rock n roll feel but the harmonies laid over top of that groove create a really tasty glaze that adds to the head bobbing, body moving groove. I can’t listen to this song and not move with it. There is a really great variety of tastes that went into writing this record and it’s evident by how no two songs seem to carry you to the same space.

But wait, there’s more.

Skip forward to “The Ocean Stays the Same” and feel your heart tugged with sumptuous and broodingly distant vocals that ebb and flow like the waves of the ocean itself. Natasha’s voice comes in slightly bolder than her male counterparts and creates the most ethereal feel as she harmonizes with them. I am completely transported, carried to the sea and deep within my own soul just listening to this song. I am not exaggerating when I say this is pure magic and I am transfixed. It’s been on repeat this morning and I can’t turn it off. Did you ever land on a song that seems to climb inside of you and pluck at the very strings of something you are going through? This is me with this song right now and I am soaring with it. I mean it – magic.

I am also a fan of “Beautiful Things“. It has this carefree feel while still carrying a deeper tactility. This song feels like the middle of summer, driving on a back road in the sun before noon. It has a feel of hopefulness even without hearing what the words are saying. I think the most remarkable thing about the way these songs are written is that they carry such a tangibility to their emotions even before you hear the words. These four songwriters have a gift and I am here to receive it. This track is a fantastic example of that. I am a big fan of this “western sky music” and all of the wonderful places it takes you in your soul, in your mind, and otherwise. I sincerely hope this is not the last record we get from these incredibly talented humans.

You can check out the debut record from Western SkiesAwake In A Dream, on all major streaming platforms. I think it will be spectacular to be able to catch this band doing these incredible songs live and we will all have that opportunity at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall in June 10th. You can check out tickets for that event here: https://www.seetickets.us/event/Western-Skies/480178

To get more information on Western Skies, please check out their Linktree here: https://linktr.ee/westernskies

Navigating the Soul with Jeremy Hilliard’s “Been To All the 50 States”

Originally posted June 8, 2022

When the pandemic hit a few years ago and we all retreated into our homes, music went from being out in the venues to streaming from living rooms and home studios. I won’t lie, I kind of enjoyed it. Not only did I get to watch shows in my comfiest of attire all the time, I got to peer into people’s homes and hear music that was sometimes coming right out of their head. It was a unique time for music and while it was not financially ideal, it was this weird quilt of creativity and kinship that was blanketing people who lived and breathed the music from their souls. No longer was it beyond arm’s length for regular fans. It was in our homes and at times felt like it was speaking just to us. I know it was hard, but from the hardship came this thing that I don’t think I will forget.

One of my favorite living room performers from that strange and scary time was Peak’s Jeremy Hilliard. We would often be treated to acoustic covers and originals with vocal accompaniment and dance flair from his wife Beth and occasional hooked cat tail running across the screen. It was interactive and fun and about as social as we were really able to be at that time. The last show we went to in person before the world shut down was Peak so to us, it was fitting that we spent that down time with Jeremy. Since then, he has released quite a few of his solo work and I have had the pleasure of featuring a bit of it here on the blog. I am beyond delighted to recommend you all head on over to Soundcloud or YouTube and check out his latest collection titled Been To All the 50 States.

The record is wonderful singer-songwriter stuff full of great songs. The tracks as a whole carry a wonderful Americana feel with strong folk influence and peppered with flavors from all over the map. The song “Property Lines” for example has a vibe of throwback alt-rock. Something about the guitar tone and the way Jeremy and Beth use their voices to play off one another in the chorus reminds me of alternative radio in the 90’s. And that is a good thing. It’s such a cool track. I also dig on “I Ain’t Afraid of a Little Dyin’”and it’s really steady-stepping folk vibe. This is the kind of song you could envision walking down a backroad, singing and stepping in time with. I am someone who is often caught wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words LISTEN TO WOODY GUTHRIE so throwing something like this song at me is like throwing a steak at a hungry lion. I love this song and the way that the sunny but determined mood just permeates everything as it moves along. I have listened to this song so many times that I pretty much know the words and I can’t stop singing along. It is kind of resonating with me in a weird way that I have not quite tacked down yet, but music is like that. I have said it before and I will say it again. Sometimes you hear a song when you most need to and it just GETS you. It’s been days. I can’t stop listening to this.

Kick on over to the title track on this collection, “Been To All the 50 States” and feel the folk vibes just seep into your soul. The song is so simple in its construction but the guitar work is so beautiful. Combined with the lyrics and the way it is sung, it creates the perfect little summer backyard soundtrack song. It just has that feel. This ambiance created with simple components but complex meanings is everything I love about a song. I have to give some big props to Jeremy’s wife Beth on her vocal backups on this record because she is the perfect vocal contrast to Jeremy’s voice. On this track in particular, it changes the whole feel and fills it out. So amazing! “The Great White Whale” is another direction for this collection of songs. It’s carrying that Americana feel and injecting it with an almost John Denver sort of thing with its energy and tempo. Not sure if that was the intention, but I was raised on my mom’s devout love for Mr. Denver and it’s in my head for life. This track just rang that bell high and proud. I absolutely love it.

All in all, Been To All the 50 States is a wonderful collection of songs and feels and I am absolutely stuck on it right now. It’s summer now and where we live, everything feels like a journey to the festival fields on a nice day. This record carries that ambiance with it from track to track. It’s not to say that this is a one trick pony kind of album because it isn’t. The songs do not sound alike any more than the voices that carry them. They are all creatively written in different tones and feels that are absolutely pulled from deep within the soul to tell a story. The best thing about music to me is the way that it can tell you a story just with how it feels but when you add in great vocals and lyrics, that story just gets more and more vivid every time you listen. This is really an entire album of that concept. I can’t recommend enough that you give this collection a spin.

Honestly, this whole record would be an outstanding summer porch concert series somewhere up in our rural county and I am wondering if I can drag Jeremy and Beth out for that some day…

You can check out the album at SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/jeremy-hilliard-1/sets/been-to-all-the-50-states?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing

Or head on over to YouTube and give it a listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69285VQQWFk

In either case, devour this incredible record. Feel and ENJOY!

You can also catch Jeremy’s band PEAK out on the road this summer and you absolutely should! They are probably the most fun live band out there in the scene right now. Don’t take my word for it though…