THE IVINS – Album Review: “Conditions”

I’ve been following Nashville alt-rock band The Ivins for nearly five years, and have had the pleasure of featuring them several times on this blog. I first wrote about them back in June 2017 when I reviewed their excellent debut album The Code Duello, then again in April 2019 with a review of their single “Certain”, followed a year and a half later, in November 2020, when I reviewed their single “Bloom” (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.) This past November, the talented four-piece dropped their second album Conditions, and like The Code Duello, it’s an ambitious work, featuring 13 stellar tracks.

Consisting of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals, the engaging four-piece plays a hard-hitting, guitar-heavy style of melodic rock. Their intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics are delivered with Jim and Regan’s earnest and raw, yet pleasing, vocals, backed by intricate riffs, sturdy basslines and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility on his drum kit). On Conditions, the guys really pushed themselves further than they ever had before, and the result is an exciting, melodically complex and beautiful rock album. They were assisted by Michael Zuehsow on engineering and production, Robert Venable and Zach Scott on mixing, and Duncan Ferguson on mastering. Additional last-minute mixing and mastering were done by Caleb Sherman and Andreas Magnusson.

Before I get to my review, I want to share some heartfelt words Jim wrote about the album on his Facebook page: “I have never tinkered, worked harder on or been more emotionally invested in a record than this one. And it certainly beat the hell out of me. From that first day, it’s been a slog full of intense writer’s block, songs changing in editing, songs changing in mixing, re-writing lyrics, re-playing guitar parts long after they were “finished”. I had to go to a damn one-room cabin in the middle of the Tennessee wilderness alone for several days just to get the lyrics out (and that would prove to be just the first draft). And all of this drama is only fitting given the content. Going back to the beginning, this record started with a panic attack. A truly frightening, paralyzing episode the likes of which I had never before experienced and where I legitimately thought I was going to die. The ensuing mania that defined the next several months had me convinced that my girlfriend was about to go running for the hills. Sooooo that’s kinda what this record is about…..OK, maybe not entirely. But it’s basically a snapshot of my life from when I was turning 30, and all of the anxiety and fear that I had never experienced is the nucleus of it all. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are legitimately HAPPY songs on here! A few! I wrote a true love song for the first time in a decade after I had literally forgotten how to do it (I thank Matt Nathanson for showing me the way, writing for his last album that his goal was to write something sincere about his wife without sounding like a Hallmark card).

This record is also significant because it may be the only real “band” album that I have ever made. While Jack and I made the last one, this one was made by the FOUR of us – Jim, Jack, Hatton & Regan. ‘Conditions’ shines because of that and I am so so proud of it. I’ve been making records since I was 15 and have made something like ten or so and this very well may be the best one I’ve ever made. I’m not sure yet. I’ve lived in it way too long to see the forest from the trees and objectively make that determination. But if you are looking for a really interesting 46 minutes that takes you on a journey, I implore you: give this album a listen. I really think it’s great and that you will enjoy it.

Well, I gave it a listen all the way through from beginning to end, and let me say I was dutifully impressed, which doesn’t happen very often when I first listen to an album. All 13 tracks are strong, with no filler or toss-offs, and I’ll touch on most of them in my review. Things kick off with “Better Days“, a rousing rocker that serves not only as the opening track, but also as an introduction to the album’s overall theme. The lyrics speak to feelings of inadequacy and that your efforts don’t matter in the scheme of things, but hoping that will all change: “I long for better days. Days that haven’t happened yet. A future’s past worth remembering./ Because the only thing worse than worry is indifference.” The song features an abundance of time and melody changes that make for an arresting listen, and I love the shimmery guitars and atmospheric vibe in the bridge, during which Jim softly croons the line that makes me think the song is about him wanting to be valued as a musician – “Waiting for you to understand that rock’n’roll ain’t dead yet” – before everything erupts into a raging crescendo in the final chorus. It’s a great song.

On the hard-driving “All I Want“, Jim issues a plea for a return of the love he thought was his: “All I want is to feel the love you laid aground“, while the catchy ear worm “Begin Again” finds him ruminating about his feelings that his life is an endless cycle of disappointment: “Love only gives what you deal out, but you can’t leave out yourself. You can’t, you can’t begin again, when you find your middle never had an end.” The jangly guitars and and swirling synths gives the song an 80s feel.

One of my favorite tracks is “Love Tonight“, thanks to its infectious dance groove, Regan’s wonderfully sultry bassline, Jim and Hatton’s scorching riffs and Jack’s thumping drumbeats. Another standout is “Hide & Lie“, inspired by Jim’s difficulties with making small talk, and how he’s used alcohol to loosen up, as he elaborated to Gerard Longo for Nashville webzine Underground Music Collective: “When I was single, I was never the guy who could effectively do bar banter. Finding, talking and picking up girls from a large group of people? Not my thing, no matter how much I wanted it to be. Same goes for regular interpersonal relationships — never very good at networking, never very good at getting past that initial 30-60 second ‘how’ve you been?’ phase of conversations. So, simply put, alcohol was, is, my security blanket.”

The entertaining and humorous video for “Hide & Lie”, filmed at the Old Glory bar in Nashville, shows the band playing an audition performance at a bar where they’re having a hard time impressing the owner. To help them play better, they indulge in a bit of liquid courage served up by a sexy bartender played by Monique Staffile of Nashville rock band HER.

The great tunes keep coming. “Growing Pains” is a beautiful, melodically complex song highlighted by a flourish of wobbly distortion that would make Jimi Hendrix proud. The anthemic and pleasing “Patient” features some really pretty guitar work, nicely accompanied by Jack’s assertive drumbeats that give the song considerable heft. “Canyons” is a hauntingly beautiful rock song about missing a loved one who’s gone: “So what if I stayed in a dream? Would it make me closer to you, or would I just sleep. Because I know if I open my eyes, I’ll lose you again.” As always, the guitar work is fantastic, highlighted by gorgeous chiming notes. The grungy, anthemic “Scream” speaks to not allowing fear and complacency to rule your life: “It’s hard to let go, when comfort is controlled.”

The album closes on a powerful note with “Chameleon“, one of the darkest, most intense songs The Ivins have ever done, and I love it. The guys pull out all the stops on this song, unleashing a barrage of gritty, reverb-soaked riffs, pummeling rhythms and soaring choruses. The guys’ intricate, textured guitar work is really spectacular, and I love the spooky industrial synths throughout the track. My only criticism is that the instrumentals are so big and bombastic, they overpower the vocals, making them difficult to understand. But my guess is that they’re about politicians – or anyone without conviction really – who talk out of both sides of their mouths, trying to please everyone with their doublespeak, but pleasing no one in the end.

Conditions is an outstanding, beautifully-crafted album that nicely showcases The Ivins’ growth and maturity as both songwriters and musicians. They’re a talented, underrated band who deserve to be more popular and successful. Hopefully, this review will bring them at least a few more fans, which is what I aim for at the end of the day.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

THE IVINS – Single Review: “Bloom”

Predictions that rock is a dying genre have been made for years, and despite the fact that not much of it seems to appear on the Billboard Hot 100 chart anymore, there’s still a lot of really great rock music being produced by musicians in America and around the world. One act doing their part to keep rock alive and well is Nashville, Tennessee band The Ivins. Consisting of brothers Jim and Jack Ivins (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals, they make a hard-hitting, guitar-heavy style of rock they refer to as “Loud Alternative”. I’ve featured them twice on this blog, first in June 2017 when I reviewed their phenomenal debut album The Code Duello, then again in April 2019 with the review of their single “Certain”. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the end of this post.)

Earlier this year, they released a beautiful cover of Halsey’s song “Graveyard”, then followed in July with “Composure”, a song addressing personal serenity and overcoming anxiety that was written and recorded remotely during the COVID-19 quarantine. Now they’re back with “Bloom“, the second in a series of singles they plan to release every two months for the foreseeable future, and which will be featured on their forthcoming second album Conditions. 2020 also saw The Ivins earn a nomination for Best Alt Rock band at this year’s Nashville Industry Music Awards, and Jim Ivins spearheaded a Nashville-centric collaborative album called Quarantunes, which featured more than 50 Nashville musicians, including members of Florida Georgia Line, 3 Doors Down, Daughtry, Tonic, Relient K, CKY, Accept and The Dear Hunter. 

“Bloom” is another rousing banger, with an onslaught of jangly and reverb-soaked gnarly riffs delivered by Jim and Hatton’s dual intertwining guitars. Regan drives the powerful rhythm forward with his pummeling bass line while Jack smashes his drum kit with his signature brute force. The blistering guitar solo in the bridge is terrific, as are Jim’s fervent vocals as he sings of his love and devotion to someone who makes him a better person: “That you are with me is just all I need to know. You are the water that makes all my dead leaves grow and cleansed them from poison to thrive in bloom.” He told me that the song was inspired “from personal experience in being a very lost person kind of floating through life, and how it really only takes one person and one connection to turn everything around.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

RUSTY SHIPP – Album Review: “Liquid Exorcist”

Rusty Ship Liquid Exorcist

One of my favorites of the many artists and bands I’ve featured on this blog is Nashville four-piece Rusty Shipp. (You can read my reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) The brain child of front man Russ T. Shipp (his honest to God real birth name), Rusty Shipp is a self-described “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by ‘the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin’, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, immersive sound, high-octane riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve experienced changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of the aforementioned Russ T. Shipp on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass. Together, they’re an immensely talented group of musicians who truly know how to deliver the hard rock goods.

Rusty Shipp

Following up on their phenomenal and highly-acclaimed 2017 album Mortal Ghost, Rusty Shipp has put out a new album Liquid Exorcist, which dropped on November 7th. In keeping with their nautical theme, it’s a concept work built around the subject of sea mine terrorism. It also plays somewhat like a rock opera, with one song seamlessly transitioning into the next without skipping a beat. Liquid Exorcist has a relatively short run time of only 26 minutes, exactly half that of Mortal Ghost, as several of the tracks are transitional or connectors between longer tracks. Nevertheless, it still makes an incredibly powerful statement and packs quite a wallop in it’s relatively short run time. Also, whereas Mortal Ghost has a heavier grunge feel, Liquid Exorcist sounds more melodic, sweeping and epic. The first time I listened to it all the way through, I was blown away.

It opens with the 42-second-long “Mine Factory“, an ominous-sounding instrumental intro that builds into a frantic barrage of gnarly riffs and smashing drumbeats as it immediately segues into “Liquid Pendulum“, a fantastic song with blistering guitars and intense, hard-driving rhythms that ebb and flow like waves on a stormy sea. Apperson and Shipp’s intricate guitar work is terrific, and Newton’s power drums provide just the right amount of propulsive thrust. Shipp has a beautiful singing voice that registers in the mid-range, occasionally rising to a just shy of a falsetto. The biting lyrics are a denunciation of the terrible legacy of countries filling the oceans with explosive mines: “Aren’t your wars waged on land enough? Why don’t you just keep your mankind to yourself? Leave behind your mess for someone else. Sharks will gladly come to your help.”

The track transitions into “Mindsweeper” a dark instrumental with chugging, distorted riffs, throbbing bass and harsh industrial synths. Then, watery plucked guitar strings and Speedy’s pulsating bass riff announce the arrival of “Detonator“. Suddenly, the music explodes into an electrifying maelstrom of swirling, fuzzy and wailing guitars, driving bass and thunderous percussion. It’s a spectacular song.

Rusty Shipp is not a Christian band per se, though Shipp is up-front about his Christian faith, as is evident in lyrics like “Raptured from the shrapnel in the twinkling of an eye. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said the end was near.” Overall, the lyrics address the dangerous work of those attempting to dismantle sea mines: “Disconnect the wires, before we all expire, but the water is turning into fire now. Everybody down, the bombs have stopped their ticking sound, five seconds till Heaven’s all around.

SS Naronic (Reprise)” is a ghostly revisit of the original track featured on Mortal Ghost, chronicling the White Star Line ship lost at sea in the north Atlantic in February 11, 1893, along with all its 74 passengers on board. To echoed, underwater sounds, Shipp’s electronically altered vocals lament “O God, please tell me there is more than this. That this cold abyss is not the end. Tell me it’s more than an accident, a warning to teach a lesson. Show me how it’s all part of the plan.”

Rusty Shipp then pays homage to Audioslave with a well-executed cover of “Show Me How to Live“, doing great justice to the powerful classic.  Once again, there’s a religious reference with the lyric “Nail in my hand from my Creator. You gave me life now show me how to live.”  Though different from Chris Cornell’s, Shipp’s vocals are just as effective in conveying the raw passion expressed in the lyrics. That segues into the face-melting and aptly-titled instrumental interlude “Blow Your Mine“. This intense, minute-long track perfectly showcases the band’s impressive skills.

Hundred Crosses” is, I think, the most beautiful song on the album, with a dramatic, sweeping melody that switches from calm to exuberant and back again, making for a very exciting listen. The multi-textured guitars are sublime, accompanied by Newton’s snappy drums and wildly crashing cymbals, all working in tandem to create a glorious soundscape for Shipp’s soaring vocals. Next up is “Breaking Waves“, the first single released in advance of the album last July, which I featured on this blog. It has a dark but catchy melody, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, throbbing bass and pounding drums. Shipp explained that the song “describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor, where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down.” 

Liquid Exorcist closes with another religious nod on the nautical poem “Navy Hymn“.  “Eternal Father, strong to save. Whose arm doth bind the restless wave. Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep. Its own appointed limits keep. O, hear us when we cry to Thee. For those in peril on the sea.” The brief track features stirring a capella choir vocals, accompanied only by sounds of the sea, and it’s a fitting end to the album.

Folks, this is a stunning and masterfully-crafted record on every level. Given it’s relatively brief run time and riveting listening experience, it seems to end far too quickly. That’s a good thing, and certainly preferable to some albums that overstay their welcome with too many filler tracks. Rusty Shipp continue to impress me with their incredible songwriting and musicianship, and deserve to be huge.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

NOTELLE – Single Review: “Beyond the Grave”

notelle-BTG

Nashville, Tennessee-based Notelle is a hard-working and talented music artist who, over the past five years or so, has been making quite a name for herself in the music capital and beyond. Working with DJs and music producers around the globe as both a writer and vocalist, her collaborations have accumulated more than six million streams on Spotify, have been featured on numerous Spotify and Apple playlists, and received over four million plays on YouTube, as well as coverage on Sirius XM Radio and EDM.com.

More recently, Notelle has been focusing on her solo career, spending the past year perfecting her sound – which she calls “heavy, messy pop” – with the assistance of producer Timothy Ryssemus of Altru Creative. Combining her love for dirty, chest-compressing low end and rhythmic, percussive synths with her gorgeous commanding vocals, she’s thus far created five superb singles that really showcase her musical gifts. Her stunning debut solo single,“Power”, premiered on local Nashville radio station Lightning 100’s The 615, while her third single “Out Of Love” was selected as a DJ pick and placed in regular rotation.

At the end of August, Notelle dropped her latest single, “Beyond The Grave“, where she explores a grittier, harder sound than her previous works. Straying from traditional song structures, she fuses elements of Appalachian folk melodies with driving industrial synths and deep bass, producing a dark and dramatic soundscape for her haunting vocals.

The track opens with her soft, breathy a capella vocals, then deep, pulsating bass and strong, percussive beats ensue, creating an ominous, yet incredibly seductive vibe. At about 1:20, the bass drops and a throbbing EDM beat grabs us by the hips, compelling us to move while Notelle’s vocals turn more urgent as she implores: “I find darkness so comforting. It hides the shadows I beg not to see again. Let me be your prey or virtue. If you leave me, let me grieve you. Sweetest love is the love we take. I’ll hold you from beyond the grave.” It’s a brilliant and beautiful track.

About the song’s lyrics, Notelle explained I have always been attracted to folklore about tragic love and loss. There is something about a ‘haunting’ that appeals to me. The idea that your longing for someone else can become so ingrained into your soul, that when your body passes on, the severity of the love and the loss stays behind and lingers – that’s so unbelievably interesting. It’s become a piece of your being. It’s almost as if there is no separation between what you feel and who you are, no way to disassociate from someone else’s crippling desperation for you or your desire for them…even after you’re gone. How can such an intense connection with another soul NOT leave some type of divine mark? Just because desire isn’t tangible, doesn’t mean it can’t take on a life of its own – maybe it gets stuck in some tragic loop in the afterlife.

To learn more about Notelle, check out her website
Connect with her on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream her music on  Spotify / Soundcloud Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes / Google Play

New Song of the Week: RUSTY SHIPP – Breaking Waves”

Rusty Shipp BW Single

I’ve been following Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp for two years, since the release of their highly-acclaimed monumental album Mortal Ghost in June 2017. Over the year following the album’s debut, the band produced a series of superb and fascinating videos for several tracks off the album, two of which (“Treading Water” and “SS Naronic”) I featured on this blog. (You can read those reviews by clicking on the links under “Related” at the bottom of this page.) They now return with a fantastic new single “Breaking Waves“, the first release from their forthcoming album Liquid Exorcist, a concept work about sea mine terrorism due out later this year.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is highlighted by a dark, immersive sound, heavy riffs and haunting vocals. Like many bands, they’ve undergone some changes in lineup since forming in 2014, and now consist of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Andrew “Speedy” Speed on bass.

Rusty Shipp2

“Breaking Waves” is a grunge-surf-rock song in keeping with the band’s nautical theme and, as explained by front man Russ T. Shipp, “was meticulously crafted to get stuck in a human being’s brain. The song sounds like Nirvana trying to play a Beach Boys song right after hearing ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. Shipp adds “‘Breaking Waves’ is the catchiest song we’ve ever made. Lyrically, it’s more philosophical and describes the battle between technology and nature in a tortoise-and-the-hare-like metaphor where mankind’s mightiest technology won’t stand a chance in the long run against the simple, steady erosion of the ocean’s immortal waves (i.e, nature) breaking it down. I think that’s for the best, and humanity is better off not waiting for centuries of erosion before it’s returned to what’s immaterial and most important – its soul.

The powerful track features the band’s signature heavily-textured guitar work, with layered riffs of gnarly and distorted guitars, all combining to produce an intense, dynamic soundscape for Shipp’s resonant vocals. Newton and Speedy keep a solid rhythm with pounding drumbeats and a humming bassline, while Apperson and Shipp deliver scorching-hot riffage. He was right about crafting a catchy melody, as this one remained stuck in my head long after hearing the song. It’s a great song, and is accompanied by a wonderful music video shot on an actual submarine. The video was produced by Ashley Henry, directed by Aaron Scott, filmed by Jason Hassell, and edited by Jonathan Terry. It features scenes of the band performing the song, interspersed with scenes of them trying to stem water leaks that imperil their safety.

Breakers on the sea, advancing steadily
Little by little taking territory
The armies will erode till Pangaea’s covered over
And the Earth is once again formless and void

Breaking waves crashing on your accolades
Break you down, water torture down the drain
One by one till your soul is what remains
Break you out, breaking from the breaking waves
Break it down and wash it away
Breaking from the breaking waves

Simple H2O crushing your machines
Ships and submarines breaking down to smithereens
The breakers won’t desist clinging to your wrist like exorcists
Feeling for the pulse of a human being

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

THE IVINS – Single Review: “Certain”

Certain (Cover Art)

Two years ago, Nashville, Tennessee alternative rock band The Ivins blew me away with their monumental debut album The Code Duello, which I had the pleasure of reviewing. Now they return with a hard-hitting new single “Certain“, which I’m certain will further advance their star within the Nashville music scene and beyond. The Ivins is comprised of the handsome Ivins brothers Jim and Jack (with Jim on guitars & vocals and Jack on drums), Hatton Taylor on lead guitar, and Regan Akers on bass & vocals.

The Ivins Promo 2

“Certain” was recorded in Nashville with producer Matt Leigh at the legendary Tracking Room (U2, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi). Jim told me that, musically, the track is a re-imagining of an ancient Lebanese folk song. For the video’s premiere on the website Pure Grain Audio, he further explained “The song’s creation actually stems from an audition we had for a cultural emissary program with the U.S. State Department, where we were asked to update an old international folk song. We chose ‘Bektob Esmak,’ a folk song from Lebanon, and off we went. The audition never panned out, but [we] knew we had a great skeleton of a song.”

Also in the Pure Grain Audio article, Jim described the song’s meaning: “’Certain’ is a commentary on the world of infinite options in which we live in 2019. Whether its jobs, relationships, music, what-have-you, at our fingertips all times, we have an unending sea of options for whatever we want out of life. Some people really take to this, and relish in never committing to anything, hence the lyric in the song, ‘Connection calls for arson, potential hangs a noose.’ Me, on the other hand, I crave certainty. I need it. It is my safety blanket. But certainty is scary, and sometimes it can bring you down a path you never thought you’d travel. For me, the lifestyle of unlimited options is the one that is claustrophobic and that’s why the hook of the song is, ’my one wish is to be certain’.”

The song storms through the gates with an explosion of blistering guitars, rumbling bass and thunderous drums, letting us know from the get-go that we’re in for a real ripper of a tune. After 30 seconds, the tempo calms as Jim starts to sing “Paralyzed, paralyzed by choice.” From there, the music alternately swells to a raging storm in the choruses, only to slow back down in the verses, keeping us on the edge of our seats as the track unfolds. The guys’ impressive musicianship is on full display here as they deliver a flawless performance, their respective instruments totally in sync to create an exhilarating and powerful track that raises goosebumps. During the song’s most dramatic moments, Hatton rips his guitar until it wails, while Jack is a literal beast on his drum kit. This photo perfectly captures the ferocity of Jack’s power drumming, which is also clearly evident in the video of their electrifying performance.

Jack Ivins drums

The Ivins will be performing at their home base of The Basement Nashville to rock New Faces Nite on Tuesday April 9. They also have a show at The Back Corner in Nashville on April 24.

Connect with The Ivins:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram
Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon

MATT DUPUY – Single Review: “More Than I’ve Ever Known”

Matt DuPuy

Matt DuPuy is a singer/songwriter, music producer and recording artist based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s thrilled to release his very first single “More Than I’ve Ever Known,” which dropped May 15th, and I’m happy to review it. Matt had assistance from Andie Sandoval and Antonio Brum, who provided backing vocals, and the track was mixed by Jeremy Hatcher and mastered by Nathan Dantzler.

The track opens strong, with a strutting electric guitar riff and thumping drumbeat that quickly hook us in. An assortment of kick-ass bluesy, funky and distorted guitar licks are gradually layered over the continuous strutting riff, accompanied by aggressive drums, loudly crashing cymbals, and organ that dial up the heat as Matt sings about a steamy romantic encounter: “I want her and she wants me. Can’t fight the pull of gravity. I think I’ve found my place. She was hiding in the smoke. Can you take me higher baby. More than I’ve ever known.” Matt’s smooth earnest vocals are terrific, and I love the calm interlude in the bridge, where keyboards and strings share the spotlight, and Andie and Antonio’s beautiful harmonizing background vocals really shine.

“More Than I’ve Ever Known” is a fine, well-crafted song, and a promising debut effort from this talented young musician. Not only are Matt’s guitar-playing skills impressive, his songwriting and vocal abilities are also first-rate.

Connect with Matt on Facebook
Stream “More Than I’ve Ever Known” on Spotify / Apple MusicSoundcloud
Purchase on iTunes

RUSTY SHIPP Release New Video for “SS Naronic”

Nashville rock band Rusty Shipp released their monumental album Mortal Ghost in 2017 to wide acclaim. Over the past several months they’ve been producing videos for different tracks off the album, and last November they released a terrific animated video for “Treading Water,” which I reviewed. They’ve now released an amazing new video for another track “SS Naronic,” a dramatic song about a ship that sank on February 19, 1893. The band chose today for the release to commemorate that fateful event.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and heavy riffs. The band consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, AJ Newton on drums and Michael Craft on bass.

Rusty Shipp2

The SS Naronic was a steamship built in Belfast for the White Star Line. Eight days after leaving Liverpool for New York on February 11, 1893, the ship was lost at sea, along with all 74 people on board. According to Wikipedia, the exact cause of the ship’s sinking was never determined. However, messages found later that had been written by passengers and placed in bottles once they realized their ship was sinking seemed to indicate that it hit an iceberg. Rusty Shipp based their lyrics for the song on some of those actual messages. A particularly poignant line is “Oh god please tell me there is more than this, that this cold abyss is not the end.” Another is “Cattle and charcoal jettisoned to save the boat. But we won’t stay afloat.”

The hard-hitting song features intense, gritty guitars, heavy bass and lots of crashing cymbals, perfectly conveying the horror of the awful tragedy. The superb illustrated animation video was created by Hein Zaayman of Vohnic Music LLC, the same artist who illustrated the Mortal Ghost album cover. The brilliant use of sepia tones gives the video an historical feel.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

RUSTY SHIPP release new video for their single “Treading Water”

Screenshot 2017-11-14 18.37.16 (2)

One of the great things about being a music blogger is getting to know other music bloggers, who frequently turn you on to new artists and bands that they write about. So, it was my lucky day this past June when I happened to read a post on my friend Zezrie’s blog Jealous Sounds about a Nashville rock band called Rusty Shipp and their monumental tour de force of an album Mortal Ghost. I was so impressed with them I became an instant fan and reblogged her review.  The band has just released a new single “Treading Water” from Mortal Ghost, along with a brilliant animated video.

Rusty Shipp calls itself a “Nautical Rock’n’Roll” band, with a sound influenced by the melodic chord progressions of The Beatles, the surf guitar of Dick Dale, the grunge rock of Nirvana, and the heavy metal of Led Zeppelin, among others. Their music is characterized by a dark, underwater sound, haunting vocals, and unconventional heavy riffs. The band has undergone several personnel changes since forming in 2014, and now consists of singer/songwriter and front man Russ T. Shipp (literally his birth name) on guitar and vocals, Elijah Apperson on lead guitar, Michael Craft on bass, and AJ Newton on drums. (Jake Adams was bassist on the recording of Mortal Ghost.)

Like many of the songs on Mortal Ghost, “Treading Water” is an exhilarating and powerful hard rock track. Rusty Shipp employs frantic riffs of gritty shredded guitars, fortified with heavy buzzing bass and hammering drums, to create a song that’s hard-hitting yet beautiful. The wonderful guitar change-ups that occur throughout the track demand, and hold, our attention, making for an impressive, melodically complex song. Shipp’s impassioned vocals are enthralling as he sings the nautically-themed lyrics that address feelings of hopelessness about life and one’s place in this world:

I’m alone in this world, drifting like a lost ship at sea
The more I live the less I feel at home
Treading water just to keep from drowning
All creation ’round me groans, till the sea and all that’s in it is undone
Something’s nipping at my toes. Treading water till the angels come
Give me that ancient feeling, the kind of love that David felt, shining through the jaws of holy war
I want to go behind the curtain, to where the golden cherubs dwell, find something worth us fighting for
Something in these endless waves feels dead, cold and lonely as the stars
It’s sad that some believe this liquid pendulum could put together someone’s heart
If I find in myself a desire nothing in this world can fill,
The only explanation left is I was made for another world

The imagery depicted in the fascinating and visually captivating video symbolizes the feelings of alienation and hopelessness caused by a cold and increasingly technological world.

Connect with Rusty Shipp: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music: Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube
Purchase: iTunes / cdbaby / Bandcamp

THE IVINS – Album Review: “The Code Duello”

Nashville rockers The Ivins have been making music for quite a while – both together and separately – and after years of challenges, roadblocks and frustration, they finally realized their dream of producing an album of songs that they could share with the world. In late April they released their debut album The Code Duello, and it’s quite an undertaking, with 13 tracks. The various tracks were recorded between September 2013 and January 2017 in New York, Virginia and Nashville, with the assistance of a number of important producers in the music industry, including Michael Rosen (AFI, Papa Roach), Mark Needham (Imagine Dragons, The Killers), Bill Leverty (Firehouse), Beau Hill (Alice Cooper, RATT) and Anthony “Rocky” Gallo  (John Legend, Carrie Underwood).

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 2

The Ivins are brothers Jim and Jack Ivins. They share songwriting duties, and Jim plays guitar and sings lead vocals (and also bass and keyboards on the album), and Jack plays drums (as well as guitar, mellotron and backing vocals on the album). More recently, they’ve been joined by Hatton Taylor on lead guitar and Regan Akers on bass and backing vocals to complete the band’s stellar line-up.

In describing The Code Duello, Jim stated “stylistically, I call this a ‘3:00 A.M. album,’ [with] the vibe of the music as the sound of walking through the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 3:00 A.M., inebriated and wearing sunglasses.” When I asked him about the meaning and inspiration behind the album title and theme, he explained:

“A Code Duello is a set of rules for a duel. A fight, if you will. The title couldn’t be more appropriate because this album is about a fight. A fight to get the album made. A fight between us and the music industry. A fight to make rock music viable to an audience increasingly disinterested in the medium. A fight with society’s expectations about what we “should” be doing with our lives. A fight to be heard. A fight for a connection. Much of the album’s lyrical content deals with those themes and our struggles with the music industry.”

The Ivins 2017 Promo Photo 1

Hallmarks of The Ivins’ music are complex melodies, brilliant, multi-textured guitar riffs, and aggressive percussion (courtesy of Jack’s athletic agility with his drum kit) that create a rich and dynamic soundscape. Their unflinching, intelligent lyrics about love, relationship and career struggles are delivered by Jim’s skillful vocals that go from tender and heartfelt to raw and impassioned.

The album kicks off with a siren announcing the arrival of “Freefall,” a powerful song about coming to terms with a partner who’s no longer emotionally invested in a relationship that’s failing. Jim bitterly sings “Your sloth a hurdle in my way. Your passion is clearly concealing apathy. My back’s broken from your weight.” The layered shredded and swirling guitars are outstanding, and Jack’s hammering drums (he’s jackhammer!) and crashing cymbals add heft to this blistering track.

Heartbreakers” erupts with explosive percussion and guitars, and Jim’s vocals are fervent one moment, then a screeching crescendo the next. This hard-driving track is about being interested only in casual sex, not wanting to get emotionally involved but feeling empty afterward: “Didn’t realize they were the same. Didn’t know that they were playing the same game. Didn’t realize nobody cared. Was surprised when they didn’t get hurt. Was surprised when it didn’t work. If this is what I wanted it to be? Then why’d I wake up feeling empty?” Along a similar theme, “Lay Me Down” speaks to looking for an emotional connection in casual encounters, but never finding it: “If you lay me down, thought I’d see God. But all I see’s a nameless face staring at me.

The guys’ awesome guitar work really shines on “Stockholm Syndrome,” where they throw down a cascade of razor-sharp riffs that snarl and chime. Jack pounds the hell out of his drum kit, while Jim’s electronically-altered vocals implore: “Building me up to tear me down. You say I’m not what you crave, and yet now here you are, but I’m screaming stop. You may be gone but you’re living a lie ’cause you could never fully give up and let this die. Standing on shoulders just to say that you’ve grown, but I won’t be your Stockholm syndrome.

A catchy, upbeat melody belies the bittersweet lyrics in “Masquerade.” The track features lovely, intricate guitar work and the guys’ wonderful harmonizing vocals that contrast with its story line about realizing your partner doesn’t really love you and has just been going through the motions. The lyric “If love is blind, then I’m wasting my time with eyes” is especially poignant.

A standout track is “Roam the World,” with instrumentals so terrific they honestly send shivers down my spine. Upon hearing the opening jangly, reverb-heavy guitar riff, it’s clear this song is going to be something special. There’s a lot going on musically, with amazing multi-layered guitars, heavy buzzing bass and power drums, along with some well-placed synths. Jim’s captivating vocals match the music’s power note for note as he sings: “And I can’t stop running away. But even if I die I know I’m home with you. If I die I’ll roam the world with you.”

The band just released a fantastic video for “Roam the World.” Directed by Kylie Rebecca and filmed in black and white, the video stars Ivy Rhodes & Jordan Fitzsimmons as a couple with a complicated relationship, juxtaposed with footage of the band performing the song in an airplane hanger.

One of my personal favorites is “The Seeker,” a stunning rock song with one of the most beautiful guitar hooks I’ve heard in a while. The track opens with dreamy synths, followed by haunting chiming and jangly guitars and heavy doses of strong percussion. Jim plaintively sings:  “Come follow me into the dark. Come and be the second heartbeat for this vagrant life, that which I chose.” I love this song.

The guys ramp things up with frantic riffs and rapid-fire drums on “Nothing Left to Say,” then segue into the melodically complex “Mountains.” I continue to be blown away by the Ivins brothers’ musicality, as the guitar work on this powerful track is impressive. The lyrics speak to persevering in the face of obstacles and self-doubt: “We’ve come too far. We fell so hard. We’ve come too far to pay for a loss of who we are.

Another standout track is “Tell Me,” perhaps the heaviest and darkest of them all. The story line has the singer on an airplane that may crash, thinking about his past transgressions and regretting things he never got the chance to do. Wanting to atone, he asks for God’s forgiveness. “And life flashes before our eyes. But all I could see was all I hadn’t done. I couldn’t tell the wife I never had goodbye. Love was always what I wanted most, but kept from me through lies.” The song features the guys’ signature intricate, guitar-driven melodies and strong percussion.

Closing out the album is the heartfelt “Bring Life,” about finding the strength to go on after the death of a loved one by holding onto memories of them. “Even though your grave lies in the shade, I know the grass still grows, and brings life to this place of the dead. You bring life to this place of the dead and ease my mind, ’cause even in death you bring me life.

The Code Duello is outstanding from start to finish, and even with 13 tracks, none seem like filler as is sometimes the case with other albums of this length.  The Ivins have a great album on their hands, and it should also be in yours.

Track list:

  1. Freefall
  2. Heartbreakers
  3. Lay Me Down
  4. Out Of Air
  5. Stockholm Syndrome
  6. Made Up Mind
  7. Masquerade
  8. Roam The World
  9. The Seeker
  10. Nothing Left To Say
  11. Mountains
  12. Tell Me
  13. Bring Life

Show The Ivins some love by following them:  Website /  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify /  Apple Music

Purchase it:  iTunes /  Amazon