Shoreworld: Iron Bridge Band – Against The Grain John Pfeiffer September 21, 2016 Columns Influenced by vinyl and cassette-era rock, Monmouth-based Iron Bridge Band bring together classic rock ‘n’ roll, fused with roots-rock and hints of a Southern soul by way of thoughtfully crafted songs, four-part vocal harmonies and reflective lyrics. The music is a considerably upbeat collaboration of edgy melodic guitar riffs, laden with fist-pumping, sing-along hooks, and melodic arrangements. Iron Bridge Band is a genuine band in every sense, and their music is a collaboration of authentic musicians who feel, groove and vibe. As the band’s bio states, “They bring intimacy and that intangible musical connection you can’t quantify with just pure musicianship alone. Their music has depth, realism, tells a story and is felt before it is heard. The band has been writing, recording and performing together since 2010 and has opened for national touring acts such as The Outlaws, Blackhawk and John Eddie.” Whenever I hear about a band that references those vinyl and cassette days of music, I’m immediately intrigued. In an era of digital downloads and television singing contests, it’s refreshing to know that music still manages to survive in our woeful world of technological knowhow. Add the fact that the record was engineered and mixed by Long Branch impresario Joe DeMaio at Shorefire Recording Studios, and it makes even more sense to these old ears. The band is comprised of Amy Anderson (vocals & percussion), Chandler Mogel (vocals), Steve Walsh (electric and acoustic guitars), Lanie Suky (bass), and Scott Suky (drums and percussion). Most members come from the Freehold/Colts Neck area with background vocalist Anderson hailing from North Jersey and lead singer Mogel hailing from good ol’ Brooklyn. Several other players have also been listed as helping in the studio and on the stage when it comes to the Iron Bridge Band sound. From what I’ve read so far, the band has been getting great press from the industry as a whole, including kudos from writers here at The Aquarian Weekly. The band has released three previous discs and Against The Grain is their fourth in an ongoing journey of rock and roll exploration. I took a listen to the disc, and this is what I came up with. First up is “A Little Too High.” Bred and born straight out of the ’70s, “A Little Too High” roars out of the speakers with all the panache of The James Gang and Boston rolled into one. Mogel’s vocal tone is powerful and reminds me of Lou Gramm from Foreigner. With the ability to rise to each particular section of the song, he’s never late to the rock and roll party. Guitar work comes courtesy of Steve Walsh, who plays with an intensity similar to Scott Gorham and John Sykes from Thin Lizzy fame. Big, bold and melodic as hell, Walsh tears it up throughout. Addictive riffs, chords and a lead break that cuts through the soul (with a great string scrape) put him on the fast track of musical recognition here and beyond. Backing vocals (courtesy of Amy Anderson and special guest Jesse Wagner) are seamless things of beauty and help put this AOR number high on the listening stack. “Black Sheep’s Son” is up next and takes off with the genuine influential crush of Bad Company. This is another example of top-notch writing skill that combines with the excellent rhythm work of Lanie and Scott Suky. Mogel commands attention as he cuts through his arrangement with authoritative style and talent. Loud and perfectly on the main, his vocals lay emotional fortitude all over this piece. Backing vocals are key here and don’t disappoint. Once again, Walsh tears it up with his old-school style of rip-roaring goodness. While the song itself may not win any Grammys for supreme originality, they definitely roll it out in their distinct way, and that’s the goal of rock and roll expressionism. The next song brings everything down a notch or two. “The Fall” is a ballad that combines acoustic guitars with singing; volume pedaled notes that glimmer like something out of a Bob Seger concert. Chandler reminds me of Dennis DeYoung (Styx) as he zips along with a smooth and breezy melody. I’m not a huge fan of ballads, but I must say that the Iron Bridge Band nails this form of music without the sappy melodrama associated with much of it. Strong verses lead the way into quick and efficient bridges before they hit the listener with an infectious chorus that stays in your head for days. Walsh’s single note manipulation is the added hook that pushes this song into a significant position. Moving around the disc, I came to “Day Gets Me Down.” Once again featuring the background assist of special guest Jesse Wagner, the song is steeped in the traditional sound of R&B roots music. Guitars ring with all the original charm of Jimmy Johnson (Muscle Shoals) and Freddie Stewart (Sly and the Family Stone) as Mogel leans into the greasiest delivery since Booker T. Wagner (and Anderson) both race alongside Mogel, keeping up and adding tone that lasts for days and days. Wagner takes a shot at a verse and cleans the clock. Rhythm work by the Sukys (husband and wife team by the way) is impeccable and steeped in the traditional love of Donald “Duck” Dunn bass and Al Jackson Jr’s drum ferocity. The song itself is a winner in my book. Melding the best from the past with their own current upgrades and embellishments, “Day Gets Me Down” will definitely pick you up and keep you bopping your head as you listen to it over and over again. “Faded” is another high point for me. Guitars awash in delay, strum and pick warbling, trem wavering chords of beauty. Walsh is a seasoned player, and this instrumental piece sounds like something out of Arlen Roth’s intricate playbook. His tone is dark and sparkly, reaching for just the right amount of notes to get his point across. While short and a solo piece, I found this song to be both stark and memorable. It may not be so for everyone out there, but if you’re a fan of the guitar as I am, you are going to love this little number. The last song on this beautiful disc is called “Light In August.” Amy Anderson steps out front for this inquisitive number. Anderson is an amazing singer, and she shines on this song. Soaring effortlessly from ultra-highs to mid-range tempos and tones, Anderson reminds me of Ann Wilson from the ’70s. Walsh plays and picks acoustic guitars behind her, contributing savvy sounds of yesterday while Anderson lays it down with an intimate feel and emotional abandon. As usual, I didn’t have space or time to hit each and every song on this 12-song set, but suffice to say that I was duly impressed and am looking forward to seeing this band in a live setting. Kudos also goes out to a bevy of players that assisted on this record, including Joe DeMaio and keyboard virtuoso Jeff Levine. Iron Bridge Band is a group that lives up to its biography. Steeped in the tradition of the past and planted firmly in the present, they deliver believable music that stems from a time when rock was in its glory. Iron Bridge Band carries that glory into the present like very few others can and I’m happy to have had the chance to listen to their latest offering. I would suggest checking them out and picking up the new disc, Against The Grain, as soon as you can get it. For more information on Iron Bridge Band and Against The Grain, head over to ironbridgeband.com. 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