January in the Rear View
Bonneville and Marah tussle.
By Jim Caligiuri,
12:57PM, Wed. Feb. 6, 2008
Before January recedes too far in the rear view mirror, I wanted to point out two releases from last month worth checking out.
Ray Bonneville’s Goin’ by Feel (Red House) has an Austin connection, co-produced by Gurf Morlix and partially recorded here. Born in Canada and raised in the States, Bonneville's a songwriter and guitarist with a solid buzz among folkies of all stripes, and with this disc it’s easy to see why. A bluesman in the same vein as J.J. Cale and a storyteller like John Hiatt, his sixth disc is funky and dark, filled with interesting characters and spare yet solid grooves. In another Austin connection, “I Am the Big Easy,” a potent tribute to post-Katrina New Orleans, features Eliza Gilkyson on backing vocals. If you’ve never heard of Bonneville, this is an excellent introduction to his brand of gritty Americana.
Marah, one of the most unpredictable bands of the decade, embodied that title when they broke up days before a tour to promote latest Angels of Destruction! (Yep Roc). I’ve seen them put on one of the worst shows ever witnessed, but in the past few years they’ve lived up to the critical line of being the "last rock ’n’ roll band."
Angels is a worthy follow-up to 2005's impressive If You Didn’t Laugh You’d Cry, filled with barroom brawlers and nimble character sketches. Comparing the Bielanko brothers' band to Springsteen has become cliché, and while they certainly draw from the same well as the Boss, their punky roots have expanded and filled out a Replacements/Waterboys vibe. Who knows if the Philly boys will ever visit Texas again after imploding, but when they do I’ll be first in line.