Queens Of The Stone Age: Villains Tour 2017 [Concert Review] 0 404

Queens Of The Stone Age: Villains Tour 2017 [Concert Review] 0 405


Queens Of The Stone Age: Express Live!, Columbus, Ohio – Sept. 12, 2017

Tuesday evening, as downgraded tropical storm Irma was making her way into Southern Ohio, the lawn and concrete pit of the Express Live! outside stage was filling up with Queens of the Stone Age fans. While it rained much of the evening, it was a light and steady presence that occasional let up, it had little impact on the fans gathered to hear the heavy alternative rock sounds of Josh Homme, and the latest rendition of the band, that in the past has also included luminaries like Mark Lanegan, Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl.

Of course, there’s no doubt that Homme, the only original member, is running the show. He’s tall, with a rugged demeanor, and a bit of an Elvis-like swagger, and he dominates the band on the stage physically and with his guitar he dominates the band’s sound. Homme of course was also a co-founder of the Eagles of Death Metal, and played with Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones in the band, Them Crooked Vultures. Last year, wrote with and produced Iggy Pop for his Post Pop Depression album, and tour.


The band opened with “Go With the Flow,” a song from Songs For the Deaf, that on previous nights on the tour had been the song they used to close the set. They followed that with “Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” a song that they’d used to open on previous nights from the new album Villains. Queens’ music is characteristically hard and heavy, often structured around a bold riff that’s repeated, with Homme’s vocal and occasional guitar solos laid on top of the solid structure shaped by bassist Michael Shuman, drummer Jon Theodore, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitars, and Dan Fertita on keyboards, and on some tracks third guitarist.

Much of the rest of the band’s 18 song, 85-minute set, included songs from Villains interspersed with tracks from 2013’s …Like Clockwork, like “My God Is the Sun,” and “Smooth Sailing.” Highlights included “The Evil Has Landed,” a strong song from the latest; “Avon,” the one song from the band’s 1998 debut; “No One Knows,” which featured a brief drum solo from Theodore while Homme lit a cigarette; the goofy disco sex song, “Make It Wit You,” with Homme delivering his bluesiest guitar solo; the new “Villains of Circumstance” which was quieter and built on a strong bass line by Shuman, as Homme sang in a near falsetto; and “If I Had a Tail,” which the whole crowd appeared to know, and sang along with. They closed the set with “Little Sister.”


For the encore, they came back strong with the alternative radio hit (if there is such a thing), “The Way You Used to Do,” which had the entire audience singing along and imitating Homme from the music video, followed by a very heavy take on “A Song For the Dead.” But let’s be clear, Josh Homme is everything you want in a Rock God, tall, good looks, attitude with a touch of dark humor, you know the type: women want him, men want to be him. While he wants to rock and see the audience enjoy his music, he’s not a cheerleader, he’s not going to tell you to clap or sing along, if it’s important, if it’s real you’ll do it and he won’t have to ask. Or you won’t, it’s no skin off of him.

Homme had one message for the crowd, the past is gone, the tomorrow may not come, if you’re going to do something, be something, whatever, be it now. “Yeah, you want to give me the finger, go ahead and do it, but do it NOW!” Before he adds, “your finger’s too small to hurt me, anyway.”


The opening band, Royal Blood is a British two-man blues metal band, where singer/bass player Mike Kerr plays a bass riff that each song hangs on, drummer Ben Thatcher does everything he can to make the rock beat interesting, and Kerr simulates guitar solos by playing the high notes on the thinner strings. For the first half of their 55-minute set, you had to marvel at their ingenuity and musicality to pull off such a big sound with only two players. But then I thought of the Black Keys and the White Stripes, and how much better that worked with a guitar player who knew what they were doing. So, for the second half, as it rained pretty solidly, I have to admit I kept wondering how much better their music would be if they were just willing to pay a decent guitarist to sit in.

-Review by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb
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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 469

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 861

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Q. Newcomb

Brian Quincy Newcomb has found work as rock critic and music journalist since the early 80's, contributing over the years to Billboard Magazine, Paste, The Riverfront Times, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Brian Q. Newcomb

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