Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures Tour 2018 [Concert Review] 0 403

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures Tour 2018 [Concert Review] 0 404


Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Wrong Creatures Tour, Newport Music Hall, Columbus, Ohio – Friday, February 9, 2018

The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, with it’s gloriously long moniker, arrived in middle America in support of their 8th album, Wrong Creatures (see album review HERE) on Friday night, playing the Columbus club closest to the Ohio State campus on High St. to a pretty full house made up of curious college students and a fair number of fans who were back to see the West Coast post-punk alt-rock trio’s return.

Eager to display their newest material they opened their 90 minute concert with 3 from their latest, sandwiching the album’s most obvious and promising single, “Little Thing Gone Wild,” between the disc’s opening tracks, “Spook” and “King of Bones.” Feedback drenched would prove to be an applicable descriptor throughout the set, while guitarist Peter Hayes and bassist Robert Levon Been traded vocals back and forth, often in the same song. The sound suitably spooky from the get go, and Hayes offering a screaming solo in “Bones,” while drummer Leah Shapiro rocked with solid authority throughout.


The pair moved to acoustic guitars for “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo,” an obvious fan favorite, and then Hayes added a reverb soaked harmonica to the mix on the demented Delta blues of “Ain’t No Easy Way.” Then it was back to their primary instruments, with Hayes adding a keyboard loop, and Been a solid bass line for the rocker, “Stop.”

Then they returned to the new one for “Question of Faith,” with the two vocalists switching instruments as well as sides of the stage, Hayes playing bass, and Been on guitar, who incidentally soloed like a bass player (a common malady). They returned to original positions, but not yet to their original sound. “Circus Bazooko,” with it’s “acid trip on a carousel” keyboard riff, proved more in keeping with the rest of the BRMC repertoire live than in the studio version, but I didn’t find it more enjoyable.


With “Berlin,” which dates back to ‘07’s Baby 81 album, the band recovered the set’s previous momentum with one of the strongest riff rockers of their set, and then continued in that direction with “Conscience Killer,” and followed up with “White Palms,” from the band’s 2001 eponymous debut, which they returned to more and more as the set moved toward it’s climax.

At this point, it’s probably necessary to remind you of the “feedback drenched” quality inherent in the loud, noisy processed guitars that came to define the post-punk and shoe-gazing movements that most inspired BRMC from the beginning. Nowhere was this more obvious on than in the dense, yet moving cover of John Lennon’s “I Don’t Wanna Be a Soldier,” where they ignored the rest of the lyrics and just repeated the refrain, “I don’t wanna be a soldier, Mama, I don’t wanna die.”


The returned to the new one for another of the album’s more promising airplay candidates, “Echo,” which struck a slow haunted groove, and was followed by another from Wrong Creatures, “Carried From the Start,” for which Been added a keyboard part, while Hayes played an extra tom-tom drum, that was set to echo in repeat. Hayes and Shapiro then left the stage, and Been sang an acoustic version of the Pogue (Ewan MacColl) classic, “Dirty Old Town,” after assuring the Columbus audience that he was sincere in saying how great it was to be back and playing new music.

The rest of the band returned for “Shuffle Your Feet,” a Dylanesque song that brought back the harmonica into the mix, and was followed by “Love Burns” and “All Rise,” which grew in musical intensity that was mirrored in the increased use of strong strobe lights facing the audience. It’s not uncommon for these club shows to avoid spotlights, and allow the musicians to get lost in the shadows due to the intense rear-lighting dynamics, but I’ve never seen a band embrace their on stage anonymity with the commitment of BRMC, they cast a bold profile nonetheless, with Been often holding his bass high like he was aiming a rifle and letting it hang low with his strap dangling behind his legs.


I had checked out a couple setlists from previous shows in anticipation of this Newport gig, and the one real surprise was the addition of “Awake,” another from the band’s debut, to the set. Been followed that, with a playful experimental thing, playing some high squealing notes on an echoing loop that he stopped abruptly about a minute in, saying “You’re not ready for that,” and then dove in the strong bold bass line of “Six Barrel Shotgun.” Here the music and the lighting moved toward the set’s climax with growing intensity, and the set closer, “Spread Your Love,” also from that debut album.

The band returned to encore on “Ninth Configuration,” from the latest, and then returning again to their earliest work as a band, closed out the evening with “Whatever Happened to My Rock ‘n’ Roll (Punk Song),” which answered it’s own question, but rocking with reckless abandon, loud, noisy, and yes, drenched in feedback and marked as silhouettes against the onslaught of strobe lights that felt like an obvious attempt to blind us all before we went deaf. Which is to say, like most of the evening’s music, it was a pretty stellar Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show.

-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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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 466

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] 1 858

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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