Vintage records. Artful and free-forming sounds. Passionate and classic. The inventive charms of a raw and defiant style can be found in the idioms of being a hipster. Except there is a problem. Hipsterism is dead or, in some circles, nullified because it is now a product, which goes against the entire point in the first place. The idea of recording from analog and driving for a passionate rawness is a classic staple of this now grossly dated subculture.
So what happens? We get a kick back. The trend reverts on itself, and what was ironic to an attention-grabbing point because experimental noise. Red Sky Mary is crunchy, swampy Southern rock and roll that sounds like a mix between a Great Boston single and two alligators fighting. I came across Red Sky Mary’s debut Red Witch, and I may have gave it a quick touch-and-go while moving onto my deeply entrenched electronic phase. Music sometimes comes upon you at the wrong time, and there is no one at fault beside the universe. Red Sky Mary is thankfully back again with their sophomore release, River Child. What the band seemed to tease and nod to, they now fully embody. River Child is a rambunctious, riveting, unkempt, dreggy collection of soot-covered dirt-rock. Every lick simply oozes cool, like of Noel Gallagher and John Fogerty fronted the White Stripes. The mix is pure idealistic rock and roll, with all its skuzzy coolness.
The best rock groups manage to infuse some catchiness into their sound. It is why modern rock bands even have a mainstream career now, considering rock’s current place in the pathos of the music industry. When a hook plays to a large audience, it is processed in flowery goop, and the vocals are coming from a grown man with his sidehair shaved down and a backing keytar player. The album winner “Gone” is prime dirty indie rock, an effort concocted with a sincere love for Southern country. The solo is so quick, the band decides to just throw in another different solo later in the song in case you missed it. It gives the song, and subsequently the whole record, a very natural feeling. “South of the City” has a quiet chugging quality that gives it a wonderful vibe, as well. Its simple songwriting, certainly, but its simplicity becomes its attraction. Tracks like “Payback” and “Too Much” are little stilted because it sticks closely to the formula. But the formula is so underutilized in current rock, it manages to sound mostly refreshing when listened to outside the album format.
This brings us all back to the hipster thing. Red Sky Mary is unadulterated, unrestrained, seismically straightforward Southern rock. The group peppers in fun hooks with non-minced solos to give a sound that is by no means unique, but embraces what it is. When the world is always trying to find the deepest belly to carve some niche popularity, it is wonderful to see something so in-your-face indifferent about the state of rock. They just do what they love, baby.
Ryan Merkel is a cool writer guy and contributor all over the internet, from blogs on music to magazines about music to sites about playing music. He is currently founder of SunState Investing and is head editor of the music entertainment magazine, CultureTease. He has written two novels, and is currently working on a third full-length novel, surprisingly, not about music. His novel “Splatter the Noise” earned accolades for independent publishing. Be sure to check out: www.sunstateinvesting.com
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