• Old Man Markley – Guts N Teeth

    Released by: Fat Wreck Chords
    Released on: 1/18/2011
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    You don’t really associate Fat Wreck Chords with country or bluegrass music (the Me First And the Gimme Gimmes Love Their Country album doesn’t count!). They’ve made a name for themselves with punk rock for the most part, and those who know can certainly attest that there’s a lot more crossover between the two genres than most casual listeners realize (or than some will admit to), it was kind of a surprise when Old Man Markley popped up on the label, first with a 7” vinyl release, then with a single track on the Fat Music Volume 7 compilation and most recently with their full length album debut, Guts N Teeth.

    When you start to dig a bit deeper however, it begins to make sense – the album was produced by John Ford of The Bronx and vocalist John Carey and washtub/upright bass player John Garibaldi have both played with Youth Brigade at certain times in their careers. Other band members have connections to The Angel City Outcasts and to The Flying Burrito Brothers, so the lines run deep here (a quick look at their webpage shows that Youth Brigade’s Mark Stern handles their booking).

    And yet, despite the punk influences that likely brought them to Fat’s attention, their debut is pretty much a straight up bluegrass/country record. Heavy on fiddle and banjo with washboard playing, cowbell and plenty of gospel inspired harmonies, Old Man Markley have refined their sound well and are obviously bound and determined to keep it as legitimate sounding as they can. They’re not screwing around here and there’s certainly no lack of speed in the guitar and mandolin picking or in the fiddling (courtesy of Katie Reed) even if the vocals are soft, and sometimes rather sweet.

    Lyrically this album is an earthy one, with influences from the traditional bluegrass and punk you’d expect to murder balladeers like Johnny Cash and even Nick Cave working their way in here and there. With eight separate musicians going at it on this record it’s remarkable that the production is as tight and concise as it is here – no one really gets overshadowed and each instrument comes through clearly, cleanly and with a good bit of push. Songs about substance abuse and lost love are to be found but there’s more to this recording than that. It’s got a good bit of heart and soul behind it, just the right amount of emotion resonance to make it matter.

    It won’t likely go over all that well with Fat’s core punk audience but anyone who can appreciate the ties that bind punk and other genres like, yes, bluegrass and country, will likely appreciate what this band is all about. If not, well, the musicianship is tops and if it takes a little while to grow on you, well, most good music does.