Tuesday, February 19, 2008

First things first. I have to be honest. I am a mean, cruel, curmudgeonly man When my family and I went to see There Will be Blood (fantastic flick by the way, best thing I’ve seen in years) when the Daniel Day-Lewis character says, “I see the worst in people. I don’t need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I want to rule and never, ever explain myself. I’ve built up my hatred over the years, little by little . . . ” my wife and daughter's pretty faces swiveled to silently accuse me in the dark.

So that’s me. But.

But, the guys in Veteran Status are fantastically nice guys. Disarmingly nice. But, being who I am, I was prepared to dislike them. I approached their show with an attitude of, “All right. Win me over”. And they did. And there’s something to be said for the idea that an artist’s character, his being if you will, is best and perhaps only truly displayed through his art. So what do we have in Veteran’s Status latest album, Railbent? Well, let me say this, it’s taken me more than a month to write this review because my aforementioned wife and daughter – excellent judges of charter and of music, both, promptly absconded with the disc and made it difficult for me to spend more than 20 minutes with it at a time. eventually, I ripped it, stuck it on my player and listened to it while walking to the gym and stalking around campus.

Veteran Status are, at its heart, two guys (Doug and Brian -- both veterans, one a purple heart awardee, hence the name) with acoustic guitars. It’s a straight forward formula creating unironic folk music – strong voices with strong writing. In fact, although they tackle pretty standard musical themes, love, loss, and destiny, they never lean heavily on cliché. Nor do they try to make their voices sound like something they're not. They sound…honest. The first two tracks, in fact, reveal not the soft folk of Iron and Wine or "Bonnie" Prince Billie, but more of a rock troubadour style. These aren't hushed still lives in song, but gutsy acoustic numbers which could easily be reimagined as fully amplified Born To Run-era Springsteen-esque songs.

When we saw them live (at Seneca’s Brother Bean) the question that my wife leaned over to ask me was, "Are they brothers”? They’re not, but they have a familiar, easy give and take with each other that also shows through in their music in songs like the jumpy up-tempo number “Beautiful Rebecca”

The production on Railbent is weak on the low end, but it’s perfectly appropriate. This is not a bass heavy album. Veteran Status has a light, bright sound. It’s by no means a Pollyanna album, but instead one that creates the overwhelming feeling of gladness, not happiness, that giddiness that doesn’t last, but an low-key sense of, “Yeah, maybe things aren’t as bad as they seem.”

There’s a lot to be said for a Rust Belt band just starting out that, like Veteran Status, insists upon the importance of original music. There’s no doubt in my mind that with their skills and presence they could play classic rock covers in a smoky bar every weekend, but instead, they choose to see themselves as artists, as writers and performers, and if there’s any justice in the world, that choice will play out for them. So, yeah, Veteran Status are nice guys who make nice music. But don’t count them out, nice guys don’t always finish last.

Visit Veteran’s Status’ blog

Befriend them on MySpace. Where you can also buy their songs.

Free and Legal Download from Veteran Status' Railbent:

"San Francisco"
"Your Destiny"
"Beautiful Rebecca"

Veteran Status live at Brother Bean:

First Punk Planet. Now No Depression. How, in a fair world, do those magazines die, whilst Rolling Stone persists?

threadless is having a pinewood derby contest for grownups. Yes, there will be a venangago-go car. If you submit your own, make sure you send me a photo of the car so we can post it here. I'll be wearing the time fades shirt while I put mine together.

via Erieblogs.com:

[Comedian] Mike Birbiglia had 100 posters hand-screened and numbered for his recent engagement at JR's Last Laugh in Erie, PA. All proceeds from this poster benefit the Erie Zoo. They're 11" x 17", screen printed, and hand numbered. Only $10 plus shipping. You can purchase them here.

Arts and Drafts will be held March 27-29 at the Brewerie at Union Station. Over 30 artists will have their works exhibited and a number of local bands (including Veteran Status) will perform in the 3 day arts celebration. Admission is free - beer is not. Hours are 12 noon to close each day.

There will be a Rust Belt Bloggers Summit on July 11-12 in Erie. People from Youngstown, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other area cities will be attendance to discuss economic development issues in the region.

Reserve January 16-19, 2009 for next year's Pittsburgh area Burning Man festival held at Cooper's Lake in Slippery Rock, Frostburn.

The Slippery Rock University Archives is using Flickr to reach out to the larger community.

Minnesota Public Radio features a streaming performance from former Soul Coughing front man Mike Doughty.

Bradley's Almanac is featuring a downloadable Bob Mould concert.

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