Local Noise: After The Reign

After The Reign have become the premier country band on the Jersey circuit. They have two releases out, Hillbilly Clubhouse and Almost Famous, and have supported those releases with shows opening for major artists such as Tim McGraw, Lady Antebellum, Sara Evans, Rodney Atkins, Sawyer Brown and Josh Thompson, to name just a few.

But before you sneer at the idea of a country band hailing fromNew Jersey, you owe it to yourself to check them out. They are a finely tuned, well-oiled group that owes as much to Southern rock and down home, George Jones and Waylon Jennings classic country as it does to the overproduced, ‘80s-tinged rock that passes for country on today’s music charts.

The band includes Dave Burlett, Bob Grado, Willie Kelly, Clay Perlman, John Strevens and Herb Van Note. The group went through numerous formations, but the current lineup took on its original music sound after John joined the band, and the members felt they had accomplished everything a cover act could do. At that point, they felt it was time to move on to performing their own material.

The group honed its sound by playing anywhere and everywhere they could, extending to venues in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and even Tennessee. Musically, they feel they are more of a high-energy band than a traditional laid-back country group. “High energy, modern, country rocking music,” is how Dave describes it. “We have some great ballads, but we can’t stand still for too long.” John is the main writer in the group, but Willie and Dave contribute in that area as well.

As far as influences, those range far and wide, but include Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon,GarthBrooks, Toby Keith, John Prine, Merle Haggard, Jeffrey Steele, and Bruce Springsteen. And speaking of The Boss, the band actually had their own encounter with the man himself.

“A few years back we were playing a Christmas party gig at the Colts Neck Inn,” remembers Dave, “we played for an hour and we were ready to take a break when all of a sudden Bruce Springsteen walks in and starts dancing with his wife, Patty. We keep playing, thinking he is going to come up and play, but he just keeps on dancing with Patty. So we played another hour and finally we said, ‘He’s not coming up, let’s take a break.’ So as we go to take a break, he comes up and says, ‘Hey, can I play a few songs with you guys?’ And we wind up jamming for another hour with him. Three hours total playing time for us. And since that gig that’s all we do, two and a half to three-hour shows with no break. Bruce showed us the way!” To quote one of their songs, “If you like country music, the boys will pick into the night.”

Some of the songs that have become crowd favorites include “Hillbilly Clubhouse,” “Some Ships Don’t Sail,” and a new one called “Take One For The Team” that has been garnering radio airplay. And their song “Jersey Strong” won the group first place in the “Stronger Than The Storm” contest put on by the state of New Jersey.

The name of the group is especially apropos, because of all the members’ former bands that seemed to contain various variations of the word “Reign.” “Willie coined it,” Dave relates. It’s actually part “Southern Reign,” which was Dave and Willie’s old band, and part “Desert Reign,” which was Bob’s old band. “And some other member was in a ‘Reign Band’ as well,” laughs Dave. “Sometimes we think we should change it to ‘Bring The Reign,’ because every time we play outside it rains!”

As for the future, the group has lofty aspirations, but has a good sense of humor about it as well. “To conquer the world,” exclaims Dave. “Only joking. Our only goal is to do better and keep moving forward. Hopefully we can land somewhere up where we belong.”

You can find out more about After The Reign, including how to obtain their music and where to find upcoming shows, at afterthereign.com and facebook.com/afterthereignnj. You can also follow the band at twitter.com/atrcountry and instagram.com/afterthereign.