taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

taking a listen

reviews of local & state music CDs


Now several years in, the matrimony of country and punk is slowly taking a predictably entropic course in certain areas and the Von Ehrics’ (www.vonehrics. com) third album Loaded is a fine example. The gritty, austere approach taken by bands like the Drive-By Truckers and Hank3 paralleled punk in its formative years, but then bands like Green Day and Blink 182 came along to strip a layer of the intrinsic danger away to make the genre decidedly more accessible to the mainstream. Not that cowpunks like the Von Ehrics even closely resemble either of those bands, but Loaded just doesn’t give you the feeling you’ve come to expect from this genre: that you kind of need a shower after giving it a listen. They sing about hard luck and getting drunk, but the clean and melodic vocals of Robert Jason Vandygriff lack the authority to be convincing when he sings, “He had 12 jurors/one judge and half a chance” on “Jimmy Blades.” His subtle twang becomes modestly unaffecting and uncharacteristically Midlander on the token drinking song “Buy Me a Drink.” The album does capitalize heavily on the same rolling percussion and crunchy guitars of its predecessors, but its instrumentation overall has a tendency to settle into homogenous riffage from song to song a little too easily. There’s also an honest cover of the Billy Joe Shaver classic “Old Chunk of Coal,” while they ramp up the volume during their take on Steve Earle’s “Week of Living Dangerously.” While Loaded is a fairly rocking album that sprints by at a breakneck pace like a good punk album should, it does little to affect the listener’s conscience like good country does.


SNÃœZZ — Carving Pumpkins

Carving Pumpkins doesn’t sound anything like the last physical output of a man just a short time away from embarking on the biggest battle of his life. Always the consummate sideman, Snüzz’s ( snuzz) solo output consistently has a way of making the morose sound upbeat and optimistic, though you get the vague sense that he’s using this release as a way to get some things off his chest before undertaking debilitating lymphoma treatment. Snüzz playfully pays homage to a Rocky and Bullwinkle-like friendship with a solo effort on “Crime Fighting Buddy” to open the nine-track EP before guitarist Sam Frazier helps him remember a lost love on the album’s title track. Frazier hangs around for most of the album, giving just a touch of melancholy to the joys of “Aderall.” Snüzz ups the tempo on the boogieinfluenced “Never Coming Back,” where he throws some pointed barbs at resurrectionists. He saves a few of those for the banality of country music on the witty “Dumbass Country Song,” which doubles as a cleverly disguised boast on the unlimited musical freedom afforded by not being a radio-friendly artist. The ironic part of it all is that everything on this album is outwardly perfect for the radio; it’s when you dig down deep that the latently sarcastic tone ascribes his music its niche-y nature. It’s also ironic that an album with a mostly unrepentant MO should end with him begging from his knees on “The Apology,” but its assured tone gives hope that there will be more from this local lynchpin in the future.


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