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We Belong to the Staggering Evening

The Ike Reilly Assassination

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Album Review

Long seen as a folky Americana styled act, Ike Reilly and his crew return to their true roots, the talking blues and R&B that, from the sound of We Belong to the Staggering Evening, was the soul of their music all along. Can I get a witness? You bet I can, the rollicking "8 More Days Till the 4th of July" is first to testify, sending everyone in the revival tent into a frenzy with its storming R&B arrangement, blistering guitar riffs, barrelling piano and gospel-fired chorus. The band burn the house down on the album's very first track. Leaving church and heading for the pub, the group bash their way through "When Irish Eyes Are Burning," a fight song whose roundhouse style flattens everything in its path. "Fish Plant Uprising" is, if anything, more compulsive, a '50s styled rock & roller that boasts ferocious piano work and possibly the best lyric on the set — "Who says you can't toss a fish at a president, say sorry and be on your way?" That lyric's not as surreal as its sounds, as Reilly vividly describes the rising militancy of a company town about to lose its factory. "I Hear the Train" rattles right over another serious subject, sinning preachers, but here the band moves into hard rock circa the late '60s. In contrast, "It's Hard to Make Love to an American" is blues flecked prog rock, while "Let's Get Friendly" returns to the giddy days of the British Invasion.

Elsewhere, the band interweave styles, the exuberant "You're so Fine" weds '50s R&B with a Phil Spector-slashed chorus, while "Charcoal Days and Sterling Nights" unites finger-pickin' blues, honky tonk, jazzy horn solos, and '60s clapalong pop. Love songs, Valentine's Day gone wrong, the walls-closing-in feel of small towns and big cities, soldiers marching off to war, working class revolts and not so penitent preachers, Reilly's tales of American life don't just resonate, they chime out like cathedral bells. In the grand tradition of talking blues, Reilly's storytelling grabs hold from the first line, all wrapped around incredibly infectious melodies and hook laden singalong choruses. Talking blues never quite made the leap into R&B, but now, uniquely it has. Sheer genius.

We Belong to the Staggering Evening, The Ike Reilly Assassination
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