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Sam Russo - Greyhound Dreams

Sam Russo

Greyhound Dream

Red Scare Records
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

The punk music community is an interesting one.  Labels like Fat Wreck Chords, Epitaph, and Rise Records are all about hard hitting punk rock.  Melodic or otherwise, there’s always somewhat of a rough and tumble attitude that tends to dominate the spotlight and bleed into the more popular spotlight.  But for those of us in deep enough, we know that’s not necessarily always the case.  In fact, most punk label bigwigs seem to have a soft spot for their favourite frontmen picking up a six string and pouring their heart out acoustic style.  

Chris McCaughan (aka Sundowner), Dave Hause, and plenty more have made the switch to much fanfare, but few are privileged enough to kick off their careers and really get noticed in this regard.  Even Frank Turner had hardcore project Million Dead.  One of the few exceptions to the rule, soft spoken English acoustic troubadour Sam Russo, was noticed a few years back by Red Scare Industries bossman Toby Jeg.  It’s a little comical when a somewhat crude, pop-punk enthusiast industry expert lets down their guard and embraces the folky, underspoken stylings of Russo alongside a roster of rough and tumble artists.  But that’s the beauty of the scene we belong to.  Fans and label leaders are more than willing to give a talent like Russo the time of day, and the payout has been more than encouraging.

Russo follows a back to basics approach that at its most includes some handclaps for percussion and vocal accompaniment, and at its simplest places the soloist and his guitar squarely in the spotlight.  For his sophomore full length, Greyhound Dreams, Russo embodies all the qualities you’d expect from a singer/songwriter on an adoptive punk label.  His soft spoken demeanor comes coated in rustic vocal style that pops and cracks within notes like a well worn record.  Simple startups like “Small Town Shoes,” “Dream All You Want” and “Forever West” all keep things simple but manage to settle into different tempos as their tales unfold. Russo performs with a touching bedroom intimacy – he could be playing for one or one hundred.

Sam Russo’s reserved, personable style comes to a headpoint in “Runaways.”  The track’s jumpity tempo stems from Russo’s forceful acoustic strumming, made all the more effective from the choral accompaniment of handclaps and soft laced female vocals.  As his vocal strain rises with each passing chorus, he captures the pure desire to revisit his best memories as he repeats “I didn’t want it to end, I still go there in my head.”  The recurring female vocals break through like a ghost of a memory.  As the final minute approaches Russo scales back to reality, shedding the layers of memory that leave him all alone.  If you’re shallow enough to judge Greyhound Dreams from any one track, make is “Runaways.”  If you’re a little less narrow minded, a next step may find you with the piano additives of “Moving North” and sing along campfire gang vocals of “Nobody’s Fool” and “Western Union.”

Taking the time to get to know Greyhound Dreams is entirely rewarding.  Sam Russo speaks volumes in his simplicity, establishing the dusty, rustic and emotional connection demanded by folk-punk enthusiasts.  While his honesty and back to basics approach can sometimes feel overly simple during less defined moments, throwing on a pair of headphones and granting Russo your full attention is always rewarding.  All in all, Russo remains a shining example of punk’s adoptive acoustic brethren.  

Video: Sam Russo – Runaway

Red ScareAcoustic punk Sam Russo has premiered a new music video for his newest full length.  The video features the track “Runaways” and appears on the recent full-length album Greyhound Dreams, released last week via Red Scare Records.

Watch the video below.

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Tour: Lawrence Arms (UK & Europe)

Lawrence ArmsChicago punk band Lawrence Arms are heading across the atlantic for a series of shows in the UK and mainland Europe. The tour is in support of their brilliant 6th album, Metropole which dropped back in January via Epitaph Records. Support for the tour will come from Sam Russo and Cornish punks Bangers and it also marks the first time the band have been in the UK in over 7 years, and I think I can speak for the entire country when by saying ‘it’s about bloody time!’

Check out the full list of dates.

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Brendan Kelly- Sam Russo

Sam Russo/ Brendan Kelly

Split the Tip

Red Scare Industries
By

Rating: 3/5

 
 

 

 

Music is always an intensely personal experience, which is why writing reviews can be a challenge. What may be your favorite new album will be reviled by countless other music fans on the internet. While there are those out there who almost deify The Lawrence Arms, they’ve never really interested me. Brendan Kelly has always just been that guy from TLA who isn’t in Sundowner to me. My first introduction to Sam Russo came as a part of a 4-way split between him and other artists including Chuck Ragan. That release was admittedly a less than lukewarm introduction to Russo’s work, so Split the Tip was approached with a bit of trepidation and plenty of procrastination. 

Once I finally hit play, Sam Russo’s sweet accent welcomed me with a quiet shuffling ballad, Small Town Shoes. It is a nice little folk song, with a noticeable English influence. For most readers, the words English folk will instantly bring to mind Frank Turner. But here Russo is much more restrained than than the barroom singalongs Turner is known for. He manages to slow things down even more on Crayfish Tales, an almost whispered track which builds into a rousing folk song in the vein of The Lumineers. Both tracks are wonderful, full of restrained melodies and Russo’s smooth voice. It is a wonderful introduction to an artist from overseas that many of us may not yet know and a reason to revisit his previous work for those who may have too easily dismissed him in the past.

Obviously fans of The Lawrence Arms will be familiar with Brendan Kelly. His solo recordings (with the Wandering Birds) never quite lived up to his other work. Here, he provides a foil to Russo’s sweet voice with his drunken drawl on Frangelico Houston, with the memorable lines if you know anyone who will fuck me based on solely who I am, I think I lost my soul down back behind the minivan and the hilariously awkward if you think this is what sick is, let me show you what a dick is. He picks things up with Pigs, a bouncing acoustic track that once again centers on his interesting lyrics, such as fucking pigs seem to be getting the best of me. The song was originally recorded by The Lawrence Arms, but was reworked for this crass acoustic version. Both tracks are worth a listen and are enjoyable, but their goofy lyrics detract from their impact. 

Split the Tip contains four songs that are worth a listen. Brendan Kelly’s name is what will likely attract potential listeners, but Sam Russo confidently steals the show (although listening to the tracks, it feels like if they were playing side by side, Kelly would upstage him with his more abrasive approach). Sam Russo is an exciting import and his contributions are worth the price of the split. Although, at the end, it feels like the smooth voiced Sundowner would have been a more apt partner on the split than Kelly. 

Brendan Kelly – Pigs

Brendan Kelly Sam RussoBrendan Kelly has premiered a brand new song.  The track is titled “Pigs” which is due out on an upcoming split with Sam Russo, set for release on May 20, 2014 via Red Scare Records.

Listen to the song below.

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Sam Russo – Small Town Shoes

Brendan Kelly Sam RussoSam Russo has premiered a brand new song.  The track is titled “Small Town Shoes” and is set to appear on the band’s upcoming split 7″ record featuring contributions from both Sam Russo and Brendan Kelly.  The record will be titled Split The Tip and is due out May 20, 2014 via Red Scare Industries.

Listen to the song here.

Red Scare Announced New 7″ From Brendan Kelly & Sam Russo

Red ScareRed Scare Records has announced that they will be handling an upcoming split 7″ record featuring contributions from both Sam Russo and Brendan Kelly.  The record will be titled Split The Tip and is due out May 20th.  

The four song track listing and album art are available below.

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Sam Russo - Storm

Sam Russo

Storm

Red Scare Industries
By

Rating: 3.5/5

 
 

 

 

England has a long history of creating and developing punk bands. After all, the biggest punk band of all time came from London and the UK doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon and are still releasing records that made a splash overseas. While it’s impossible to group anything together into one cohesive unit (for every Gallows there’s The Arteries, for every Caves, there’s a Sharks and each offer a great option), there is a string of acoustic acts from overseas making a name for themselves stateside. Biggest is, of course, Frank Turner while The Great Cynics are slowly building a strong following as well. Now, you can safely add Sam Russo to that list of great British exports.

StormRusso’s first proper full length, comes from the quality people at Red Scare Industries but is a markedly different sound than the Chicago-based label is known for. This isn’t your scrappy pop-punk or gruff mid-western style onslaught. Instead this is a slow, soothing, singer-songwriter with a crisp voice and bare bones songs that aren’t much on paper but soars on record.

On StormRusso sings with confidence, nearing perfection. It’s like Sam Baker without years of cigarettes destroying his vocals chords. It’s a more mature Giles Bidder or perhaps a slightly toned downChuck Ragan. He consistently uses his voice to compliment the rise in intensity of his solo instrument. Unafraid to alter the tempo and volume of his delivery, Russo ebbs and flows as necessary going from whispers to singing his heart out in a mere couplet.

And yet, it doesn’t seem like he’s even trying.

It all comes easy, or it seems that way – like he just picked up the guitar and began singing about his life. It’s familial and real, relatable and sincere –a feat that many singer-songwriters fail to accomplish. Moreso, the level of maturity makes Storm stand out as well; for while there are songs about failed relationships, the songs are of an older nature.

It’s no longer “he cheated on me” but rather “he doesn’t want to have kids.” They are tales of conversations over coffee, working three jobs at once, buying beers with the last of your cash or the hardships of a factory job. The lyrics read like stories, and lines like “We were born where dreams go to die, and it’s so easy to forget how it feels to be alive” seem all the more sincere.

All of it seems mature, somehow nostalgic and real as Storm will surely ensure people talk of Russo for years to come.

Tours: Tim Barry / Sam Russo

Tim BarryRichmond, Virginia’s Tim Barry kicks off his UK tour with Sam Russo tonight in Exeter. The dates are below.

Barry is currently touring in support of his fifth solo album, 40 Miller, which came out last year on Chunkasaah Records in the States and X-Tra Mile Recordings in the UK. In anticipation of the tour, Xtra Mile has assembled a video for his song ‘Shed Song’ which features live and backstage footage from his tour last year with Frank Turner and Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun.

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Elway Reveals New Song + Tour Dates

ElwayThe four-piece indie rock band from Fort Collins, Elway, have premiered the first new song, “Ariel” from their forthcoming album, Leavetaking. The new album is set to release digitally on June 25th and physical CD/LP on July 2nd from Red Scare. A stream of “Ariel” can be found on AVclub.com and pre-orders for the new album can be found on interpunk.com.

Guitar/vocalist Tim Browne had this to say about Ariel: ” I was eyebrows deep in teenage post-breakup malaise at the age of 25 and I wanted to try my hand at waxing Americana…so I wrote this straightforward four-chorder that’s way fun to play and sing, with a repetitive hook that sort of drives it all home. Title is a reference to my girl Sylvia Plath’s horse. Respect.”

In support of their new album, Elway have announced tour dates for July and August. The band will be touring with label mates Masked Intruder and Sam Russo on the “Red Scare Across America Tour”. The tour kicks off in Chicago on July 8th and will wrap up in Milwaukee on August 17th.

Tour dates are posted below.

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Chuck Ragan/ Sam Russo/ Jimmy Islip/ Helen Chamber

Chuck Ragan / Sam Russo / Jimmy Islip / Helen Chambers

Split

Specialist Subject Records
By

Rating: 2.5/5

 
 

 

 

In celebration of recent tour dates in the UK, Chuck Ragan has released a split LP with 3 English artists that he has played with on previous rounds through the country. Starting things off is Chuck himself, contributing 3 cover songs, including one by Leatherface with his Hot Water Music bandmate Chris Wollard. Of the three songs, this is easily the best. Both of the other songs are slow songs that could be considered at best B-side quality recordings. It is understandable that Ragan would not want to release his best material on a small pressing LP, but it almost feels like he wanted to use his name as a vehicle to introduce people to some obscure English artists without worrying about overshadowing them too much. It just hurts that Ragan would release something so mediocre.

Next up is a trio of songs from Sam RussoRattling Keys is vaguely reminiscent of a Gaslight Anthem ballad, but his thick accent is distracting. After the disappointment of the first three songs, these throwaway tracks are almost heartbreaking.

The redemption comes in the second half of the album, starting with Jimmy Islip. Starting with 1990, he kicks things off with some uptempo folk punk sure to bring a smile to the faces of devout Frank Turnerfans. Fortune Teller slows things down a bit and suffers with the decrease in tempo, but Big Heart keeps things going with more English high speed folk. Islip is a great find for listeners on the other side of the pond.

The closing tracks come from the lone female, Helen Chambers. Female folk artists seem to receive less recognition than their male counterparts, but if this is because of a male domination conspiracy, then feminists have found their revolutionary heavyweight firepower in Chambers. Her strong voice exhibits a slight warble in Biding My Time bringing to mind the legendary Buffy St. Marie in her prime. She overshadows all of the men on the album, even during the simple quiet Paper & Glue. But where she really shines is on the final track, Speak Your Name, an acapella song with an Appalachian folk sound that sends shivers down your spine.

This limited LP may be a stretch for punk fans with only a passing interest in the current crop of gritty folk artists, but for fans with an open mind and a keen ear, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers provide some high quality music. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the first half of the album.