Album Review :: Chuck Ragan/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip/Helen Chambers – Split LP

“…when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it.”

Not only is Chuck Ragan a member of one of the best punk rock bands of the last twenty years, but he’s also established himself in the,ever popular, acoustic scene too. Having toured around the UK as a solo artist many times, he’s crossed paths with a number of fantastic singer/songwriters. In Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers, he’s found some of the UK’s finest, and they don’t disappoint.

Chuck kicks off the record and, rather than use original songs or tracks from his forthcoming solo release, he’s decided to cover some of his favorite artists. Lending his voice to the words of Helen Chambers, Darren Gibson and Leatherface, he pulls each track off expertly and makes each song his own. Did you expect anything less?. The addition of backing vocals from, fellow Hot Water Music member, Chris Wollard are a nice touch and work well in contrast with Chuck’s main vocal. The strongest of the three is definitely ‘Not Superstitious’ (Leatherface), but I have a soft spot for ‘Stephen Patrick’ because I love the original and I can’t resist a Morrissey reference.

Taking on the arduous task of following Chuck is Sam Russo. Russo’s released a few records before this, but it’s nice to hear him on a more polished recording. Not only are they more polished than previous recordings, but there’s definitely more to them. Electric guitars and subtle percussion accompany his acoustic, making his tracks the most full sounding of the bunch. I’d go as far as saying, Russo is my favorite songwriter around right now, mainly because it’s hard not to relate to what he’s saying. His words are as simple and poignant as ever, and I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can’t relate to a song like ‘Tinned Peaches And Diamond Rings’ – “I pawned everything that I own/It wasn’t much but I should’ve known/that she’d say no” gets me every time.

Whilst Chuck and Sam went for the softer more heartfelt route with their tracks, Jimmy Islip’s additions bring in a nice change of pace. They’re the least folky, most upbeat and the most stripped down tracks on the record (aside from a few vocal effects). They feel more like punk songs played on an acoustic guitar. That’s no bad thing, and isn’t a surprise given that he plays in so many punk bands. With that said, the tracks aren’t overly aggressive, but they’re definitely tracks to throw your fists in the air and sing along to. ‘1990’,  in particular, is one bound to leave throats sore by the nights end.

After Jimmy’s selection of punk tunes, Helen Chambers’ trio of softer, heartfelt country songs provide the closer to this fantastic split record. Her distinctive vocal style sets her apart from any other singer I’ve heard in recent years, and she knows how to use her voice to her advantage. Her vocal range is incredible. ‘Speak Your Name’, a purely A Capella song, demonstrates this perfectly. Some might see it as brave for an artist to do something like this but, when you’ve a voice like Helen’s, why not? Not only that, but she brings two fantastic country/folk songs to the table too, the subtle extra instrumentation on those songs working really well with Helen’s acoustic guitar. Is there anything she can’t do?!

What I hope I’ve made clear here is that when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it. Those coming to this for three new Chuck Ragan songs will be happy, as they’ll also have three new artists to listen to as well. These twelve songs are poignant, rabble-rousing and beautiful and, I like to think, prove that the art of good songwriting isn’t confined to a select few. In short, go and buy this. You’ll love it.


To buy this, extremely limited, split 12″ record, head over to Specialist Subject Records. Whilst you’re there, check out some of their other releases. You won’t be disappointed.

Interview :: Sam Russo

© 2011 Kieran Kelly

“You must travel twenty legues and farthing” – Sam Russo

Sam Russo is one of the finest singer/songwriters in the UK today. Having had trouble with touring in the past, the man now known as The White Wizard, embarked on a tour of the UK with, Plymouth punks, Crazy Arm. The Blind Faith Tour stopped in Manchester last Sunday, so we caught up with Russo to talk about his latest release, touring the UK and got him to shed some light on the Cory Branan situation.

Interview :: Jimmy Islip (The Magnificent/Milloy)

“Is touring hard for you because you’re in every band ever?”

If you’ve never seen Jimmy Islip play, you’ve clearly never been to a gig in the UK (seriously, he pops up in the oddest of places). He’s played with some of the biggest names in punk as the frontman of The Magnificent, has gone solo on split record with Chuck Ragan, Sam Russo and Helen Chambers, and has recently joined, Wakefield punk outfit, Milloy as their drummer. We caught up with him in Manchester shortly after The Magnificent had got off stage.

Single Review :: Crazy Arm – Tribes

“…I can’t wait to hear what the Crazy Arm boys have in store for us in September.”

I’ve made it pretty clear in the past that Born To Ruin is one of my favorite albums in a long time. Crazy Arm’s brand of gruff, melodic, political punk was a breath of fresh air and I’ve been hooked ever since. The guys are gearing up for the release of their second album and, if ‘Tribes’ (and previous single ‘Ambertown’) is anything to go by, Union City Breath will be another top notch release from the Plymouth-based band.

Like a lot of Crazy Arm’s material, ‘Tribes’ is a very socially conscious track. The line: “I don’t want to live in a fucked up world” opens up the song and perfectly captures the message the band are trying to spread. It’s a track that deals, primarily, with equality and promotes the idea that, no matter what sex or race a person might be, they have rights. It encourages morality, but manages to stray away from feeling overly preachy. When a song has such a clear message that can be hard to avoid and can often feel like it’s been laid on a bit too thick. That isn’t the case here. Musically, it’s everything you’d expect from a Crazy Arm song. The rabble-rousing track is driven by awesome, forceful, guitar playing and kept together by the solid rhythm section. The drums are particularly prevalent, but that’s no bad thing. The changes in pace are fantastic and, coupled with Darren’s fantastic vocal range, really help to drive the message of the track home.

The quality continues with the B-side. ‘Help For Heroines’ relies heavily on the the roots punk/country punk sound that differentiates Crazy Arm from the rest of the bands in the current UK scene. That being said, it doesn’t lay off on the intensity. It’s still fast paced and best played at full volume. If this is the quality of tracks that were cut from Union City Breath, I can’t wait to hear what the Crazy Arm boys have in store for us in September.

You can’t go wrong here – Two great tracks from a great band. Buy the single, go to the shows and support them any way you can. The band head off on their first ever UK acoustic tour later this month, with Cory Branan and Sam Russo. Following that, they’ll be touring across Europe with Against Me!, on their headline shows, in November. There’s details of their future touring plans here.


Podcast :: Under The Bridge #24: She Tricked Me With Her Vagina -or- Have I Got Enough For Bus Fare? (1st Anniversary Show!)

“I might just start selling my shit, like…One of your five a day” – Ian Critchley

Can you believe that, a little over a year ago, the idea of doing a podcast was just a passing thought? Oh how far we’ve come. There’s been times when we ran way too long, times when the audio quality wasn’t exactly the best and we’ve definitely offended every listener we have at least once. Despite all of this (and Ian’s original misgivings) we recorded 24 episodes of Under The Bridge.


It started off as little more than two, badly recorded, dudes getting drunk over Skype and talking crap about the latest nuggets of wisdom, bestowed upon us by the music industry. Today…it’s still the same, with Skype replaced by Ian’s flat. In all seriousness though, we’ve had some great guests on the show: Ben Marwood, Chris Farren (Fake Problems), Giles Bidder (Great Cynics) and Jeff Clemens (Gamerwok Entertainment), just to name a few. We’ve also crafted a much tighter, well prepared show. Yes, believe it or not a lot of thought goes into each UTB recording.

So, if you enjoy “the podcast that Chris Farren hates most” – hearing the “Frank Turner Minute”, our stories of woe and all our crudest moments – thank you. I just have one question…why? (Leave your responses in the comments). Anyway, here’s to another fantastic year of Under The Bridge. We’ve got some great stuff coming up that we think you’ll be into. For now, why not listen to Episode #24, or maybe you should watch it?

Cheers!

Go on, have a listen:

Under The Bridge #24: She Tricked Me With Her Vagina -or- Have I Got Enough For Bus Fare? (stream/download or subscribe on iTunes)

Or, perhaps you’d like to watch it?



Music – The Falcon – God Don’t Make No Trash -or- Up Your Ass With Broken Glass

  • Feed The Monkey, Drown The Worm -or- Goin’ Home
  • Look Ma! No Fans! -or- Do You Want Fries With These Songs?
  • I’m So Happy I Could Just Cry Myself To Sleep -or- The Routes We Wander
  • Building The Perfect Asshole Parade -or- Scratching Off The Fleas
  • Huffing The Proverbial Line Off The Proverbial Dong -or- The Blood And The Frog

News:

  • Chuck Ragan collaborating with Jon Gaunt, Joe Ginsberg, Todd Beene (Lucero), Frank Turner, Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem) and more on new record.
  • Billy Bragg releases ‘Never Buy The Sun’
  • Henry Rollins touring the UK in 2012
  • Against Me! Talk White Crosses re-release
  • Frank Carter leaves The Gallows
  • Weezer announce cruise
  • Chuck Ragan/Helen Chambers/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip split coming via Specialist Subject
  • Barlow & Ian (and Jon Snodgrass) name Austin Lucas’ new backing band

Outro:

Where Can We Find You On The Internet?

Anthony

Ian

  • Facebook – Harmonica Frank
  • Blog

The Podcast

Moon & Back

Interview :: Helen Chambers

“MySpace scares me now” – Helen Chambers

Helen Chambers recently played an intimate show in Leeds with, our buddy, Austin Lucas. The York-based songstress had been recommended to us many times before and with good reason: She’s awesome! Before the show we had a drink and chatted about working with Chuck Ragan, getting her work out there and what happens when you google her name.


Podcast :: Under The Bridge #23: Who The Fuck Is Dave Smith?!

“I would absolutely not do it with Davey Havok” – Chris Farren

Everyone knows that Under The Bridge is “the podcast Chris Farren hates most”, so it was quite a surprise when he agreed to come back on the show. Of his own free will, no less. Moon & Back Music’s, Cara Moore joined our Floridian friend to complete this week’s line up. Though we did get Kieran Kelly (of Moving North and Throwing Stuff) on the phone to talk about the upcoming Crazy Arm/Cory Branan/Sam Russo tour. There was also a rap battle…

Go on, have a listen…

Under The Bridge #23: Who The Fuck Is Dave Smith?! (download/stream or subscribe on iTunes)


Music – William Shatner

  • Common People
  • Has Been
  • The Real Slim Shady
  • I Can’t Get Behind That (Feat. Henry Rollins)

News:

  • Against Me! and Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo to support Frank Turner
  • Hot Water Music sign to Rise Records
  • Horrible Crowes preview new track
  • Morrissey talks label troubles
  • Brendan Kelly is making a new record
  • Muppet movie soundtrack to contain: Alkaline Trio, Atreyu, Ok Go and Weezer
  • Jim Ward to compile EP’s for a new full-length
  • Crazy Arm new single coming August 1st. Touring with Sam Russo and Cory Branan.

Outro:

Where Can We Find You On The Internet?

Anthony

Ian

  • Facebook – Harmonica Frank
  • Blog

The Podcast

Moon & Back