Back in May of 2014 Blabber’n’Smoke reviewed Seattle band Massy Ferguson‘s album Victory and Ruins giving it a big thumbs up while noting elements of The Drive By Truckers, Son Volt, The Jayhawks and Bottle Rockets in the mix. We said it was a great album to have on you when someone asked you what American roots rock sounded like and having revisited it this week we stand by that. Two years later and here’s the follow up, Run It Right into The Wall. It’s no huge departure from their hard driving blue collar rock template but it does find the band slimmed down to a trio (Ethan Anderson, bass & vocals, Adam Monda, guitar and Dave Goedde on drums) following the departure of keyboard player Tony Mann. In addition, there’s none of the pedal steel that graced several of the songs on Victory and Ruins, instead there’s an emphasis on the guitars and a big boost for the drum sound. They haven’t, thank God, turned into a blunderbuss power trio; there’s still plenty of light and shade here. Instead they’ve set their sights on classic guitar bands of the 80’s, REM, The Replacements and such for this set of songs all written by Anderson. In addition, there’s a healthy dose of slightly older classic American rock informing the set.
There’s certainly an REM like jangle to the opening Gallipoli while Anderson’s vocals aren’t a million miles removed from early Jay Farrar here. It’s a ferocious scramble of guitars and driving percussion with a brief and inventive spiralling guitar break midway through. The following Santa Fe then recalls their previous work opening as if Crazy Horse were about to take off before settling into a hard bitten and hard driving road tale which takes the band into Drive By Truckers territory with Monda’s guitar squalling away. While comparisons might abound as the songs unfold it’s important to say that the band in the main transcend their influences. Perhaps the best example here is on Firewater which ripples with translucent guitars giving it a Byrds like feel as it flows along, Anderson’s vocal gruff yet melodic as he sings of a loser whose only friend is the bottle.
The band continue to walk along the ragged highway of American music with the Southern rock strut of For A While and there’s a Creedence Clearwater guitar vibe on the steady rolling Dogbone where the band stretch out allowing Monda space to set off some guitar fireworks. Away From The Devil is another memorable match of classic hardscrabble living lyrics and stone cold American rootsy rock drive, the rhythm section solid as a levy while guitars squirrel and swarm. Anderson comes into his own with the introduction to Front Page News, his voice stained with emotion and hurt before the band swoop in and he lets loose over a powerful E Street type melodrama with an organ added for extra heft.
Heading for the end zone there’s a ferocious run through on Special Meds with Anderson ranting about pills and sanity before the sonically adventurous Into The Wall. Again Anderson is impressive on vocals as a scrubbed guitar and synth drums gently propel his words which portray a character beaten into submission by everyday obstacles and at the end of his tether. As the tension builds the band weigh in with crashing guitar but a mandolin also appears tethering the song and avoiding bombast. They close with the impressive Into The Sun, a pulverising drum beat and furiously scrubbed guitars opening and Anderson’s voice soaring on the choruses before the song ends in a welter of sound.
While it’s not as immediate as its predecessor Run It Right into The Wall is a solid slice of gritty roots rock music which deserves a listen. The band have a fine live reputation and if you’re down south you can check this out as they’re currently playing several dates in England including a slot at next week’s Maverick Festival on the Saturday. There’s an official album launch in London at Zigfrid Von Underbelly at Hoxton Square on Thursday 30th June with fellow At The Helm artists Daniel Meade, Society and Stevie Ray Latham also appearing, a line up well worth catching and at a price you won’t believe (£6 if you ask. Other dates here.
4 thoughts on “Massy Ferguson. Run It Right Into The Wall. At The Helm Records”
Fabulous review, Mr. Kerr. We saw Massy Ferguson live on 17 June, their official US CD release party, and what a party it was! Lots of audience participation and special guests, including keyboardist Tony Mann, who recently moved back to The States. Looks like they had a big party in Dent, too. Many shows coming up in England the rest of the month and into early July.
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