Up And Runnin’—Brother Where Art Thou? We’re In New Jersey
Up And Runnin’ is a four-piece group of two-horse town renegades that carry on the iconic mountain music of Bill Monroe (the founding father of bluegrass music) as well as Flatt and Skruggs, The Stanley brothers and many other traditionally steeped pioneers. The group has been playing together in some form for over three decades and their live and recorded performances continue to “wow” fans of this American art form from days gone by.
Watching these guys tear hell’s bells through a tune shows more than fret board gymnastics, and you can tell that even if they never made a dime, they’d still do this. It’s music with a very close-knit group of fans and an even closer group of passionate players.
The group kicked off their Toms River show in Huddy Park with “Miles And Miles Of Texas” by Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys with stand-up bass, mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar. Bassist Paul Unkert kept the time, slapping away on an acoustic bass and tossing the occasional Willis trademarked “yee-haw” into the mix as the band took turns darting in for various solos.
They also played several cuts of their latest CD entitled A Look Within and with the enhancement of a really good sound guy, sounded just like the record. Cuts like “Granny’s Wild Ride,” a flat-picked tune that had me and a couple other guitar players staring at each other with panicked looks of inadequacy as songwriter and picker Ronnie Hall blazed, backing away to give solo shots to banjo king Rich Gulya and Mandolin shredder David Pinto, another couple of monster players who give the novice a sad row to hoe.
Paul Unkert and his “Who’s Up To What” gives us classic government suspicion to think about in lyrics like, “It’s bad enough they have to spy and infiltrate/ there ain’t a code in this world that they can’t break.” The instrumentation here makes George Clooney’s Soggy Mountain Boys look like pussies.
The band’s live versions of “Blue Moon,” Bill Monroe’s “Blue Night” and Kenny Smith’s “Studebaker” were entertaining and tight, peppered with the best Unkert one-liners this side of the Henny Youngman Mountains. Funny as hell, it was sobering to see some humble and friendly musicians tear my dreams of professional guitar playing into a million shreds.
These guys are great musicians engulfed in a music form that’s drawn from the deepest part of the old school talent pool. You’ll be able to experience the same thing this weekend when Up and Runnin’ will be performing at a town center concert in Freehold on August 14. For further information on the show, contact the fellas over at the new home of bluegrass at myspace.com/upnrunnin.
Ready In 10—Face The World
Ready In 10 is a rock outfit that’s clawing their way out of Long Island’s hotbed of Bon Jovi clones. Armed with their latest disc, Face The World, Ready In 10 charges you with glistening production, heavy guitar, smooth harmonies and tight rhythms. The band has landed some impressive gigs including shows at The Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, where the band played with some of the biggest names in the business including Fallout Boy, The Fray, Goo Goo Dolls and Nine Days.
Another interesting note is that lead vocalist Sal Nastasi has also performed the “National Anthem” at several New York Jet games and is about to do so again on Aug. 14 at Giants Stadium.
Face The World starts off slow but connects on song number three with “Green Eyed Girl,” a smart rocker that kicks out infectious harmonies and monster choruses shaped by the tasty lead work of Marc Viola. His lead in this song is ‘70s phenomenal, done in the simplistic style of Drew Abbott (Bob Seeger). “Green Eyed Girl” has also been featured in an online advertisement for Sony Ericsson, which means they could be making money on it, hmmm.
Other highlights were “Now I’ll Lay,” a hybrid mix of influences including Bon Jovi-meets-Melissa Etheridge styled power vocals, anthemic choruses, tone rich slide wails and rock steady rhyhtms. “Shallow Water” comes at you in the vein of Soul Asylum, hitting you with quick catchy choruses and graveled vocal tone for days. More dirty slide work aims this tune at everything south of the Tennessee border.
“Hard To Love” comes out of Concrete Blonde territory, building into an interesting composition and once again focused by Nastasi’s powwerful vocals and Violas interesting lead work.
“Fool” is my disc fave, an R&B flavored ditty with charm and gritty roots instrumentation. Nastasi leads the band well here, slowing the pace and keeping the group laid back in the pocket while Viola snaps twangin’ country melodies throughout. “Simple” is A-list too, with its funky Curtis Mayfield/Booker T vibe.
While I feel that there are a few tracks that don’t fit the feel of this disc, it’s a good record that has enough balls to move them into the industry viewfinder. For more info and show dates go to myspace.com/readyin10.