Brian Fallon – Sleepwalkers

Like a lot of people my age I grew up a Springsteen fan in the late 70’s which led me to check out The Gaslight Anthem after reading all the hype/praise/reviews of The ’59 Sound.  I liked it but have to admit I didn’t get all that much of a Springsteen vibe.  I kind of put that one back in the rack for a good long time and moved on to other sounds.  When American Slang came out I grabbed a promo from my local indie and gave it a spin.  I started to really like it and revisited ’59 Sound which I was also really ended up enjoying.  I think that then, as now, I miss Rock & Roll.  There just isn’t really any being released (that appeals to me) over the past decade or two.  Gaslight is one of the few bands that “worked” for me.  Unfortunately the next two releases weren’t quite up to par and I lost interest again.

Lead singer/songwriter Brian Fallon’s second solo record Sleepwalkers has been getting a few spins around here over the past week and I have to say I am enjoying it quite a bit.  His sound has matured as has his songwriting.  We all get older…there’s no way around that.  What separates the good songwriters from the simply mediocre is how they deal with it.  Brian Fallon gets kudos for tackling some of the issues that come with no longer being young.  Check out Proof of Life for this new maturity.

The sound on Sleepwalkers is familiar, but a little more varied and less frantic, than Gaslight.  His style is unmistakable but you can hear more influences in the music.  If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven sounds like you would expect Brian Fallon to sound but the Sleepwalkers, Neptune and Watson are just different enough to catch the ear and stay there a bit.

The last track is See You On The Other Side tackles similar themes of love and eventual loss as Jason Isbell’s If We Were Vampires and, while not in the same league as that song, is a mature statement that can only come with age.

Brian Fallon’s Sleepwalkers is worth your time.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit @ King’s Theater – Brooklyn, NY

Last night I took my first trip to the King’s Theater in Brooklyn to see Jason Isbell and James McMurtry.  The venue, which opened in 2015 after 5 years of extensive renovations, is without a doubt the most amazing in the city.  It has been totally restored to its original 1929 appearance down to the finest details.  It certainly makes for a stunning setting for a concert.

I was looking forward to this show more than usual as both of these artists are among my favorites.  Jason Isbell is arguably the best songwriter out there in 2018 and James McMurtry has been right up there for the past 20 or so years and while I have seen both several times, this was a perfect musical pairing.

James McMurtry and his band played a 45 minute set that featured a few older songs and a few from is last album Complicated Game.  The sound was a little muddy during the first couple of songs but it opened up a bit as the set went on.  Copper Canteen and You Got To Me were highlights from that release and the set closing No More Buffalo was another from It Had To Happen.  Seeing him in a larger venue was a little different, but all told a good opening set.  I’d love to see him bring the band back to NY in the near future for a headlining set, but it seems like he has been playing solo shows in a lot of places due to the cost of bringing the full band.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit are one fine tuned touring machine at this point.  It’s kind of easy to sound like a fanboy (a 55 year old one at that) but he is just that good.  A lot of America in 2018 probably doesn’t want to hear a song like White Man’s World, but we need to.  It’s too easy to look the other way and only see your side of the story.  Jason Isbell confronts this with eyes wide open, questioning his (and the listeners) place in society when only looking through eyes that are on one side of the mirror.

You want some relationship songs?  Cover Me Up and especially If We Were Vampires are two of the finest that I have heard and both were played last night to a hushed theater.  His fans actually listen to the songs, which is amazing in the 2018 cell phone obsession era.

You want to rock?  Hard?  How about Anxiety or Cumberland Gap?  I mean it is just great song after great song and he mixes up the setlist night after night so you can always expect a surprise or two.  I don’t think there is another artist that I would rather see right now.

I know I am gushing but the show was really, really good.  Check him out if he comes to your area.

Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson

Chris Stapleton was on SNL last night with Sturgill Simpson along for the ride.  For those late to the party Midnight Train To Memphis was SteelDrivers tune but this version rocks a little more.  In fact it rocks a whole lot more.  Is it country?  Not really, but who cares when it sounds this good.  This is one bad ass performance.