Friday, July 6, 2018

NJ Stuff from The Skullers, Lowlight, and The RockNRoll Hi-Fives

Lowlight released a live album last week.

Catching Up

I've been trying to build a little bit of blog / life balance into my routine lately. The obsession with cycling that consumed me in my late teens / early twenties has returned, and I've been getting out there almost daily this summer. And I've been making an effort to spend a little more time with the coolfamily rather than out at so many shows. That's led to my posting a lot less around here and falling waaay behind on the email and release games. Oh well. There have been a few things recently that I've been meaning to call your attention to, so here are some of those.

The Skullers, "I'm Your Man"

Last month, NJ blues rockers The Skullers released a cover of Richard Hell's "I'm Your Man." All proceeds from the song go to benefit Career Gear. Career Gear provides "professional clothing, mentoring and life-skills to help men in poverty become stronger contributors to their families and communities."

The band had the opportunity to meet with the Career Gear team in their New York offices and donated some suits to help further the organization's mission.

The Skullers' take on the Richard Hell b-side combines singer / guitarist Jack Skuller's passion for the blues with bassist Luigi Sardi's punk leanings into a version that's become a fan favorite at the band's live shows. Check out the Skullers' cover of "I'm Your Man" below.

The band will play the Johnny Thunders Birthday Bash at The Bowery Electric on July 15th.

Lowlight, It's Later Than You Think

Two of my favorite live music moments from the last 18 months or so happened both times I saw Lowlight open for Pretenders. The first time, at Terminal 5, I got a little choked up watching friends of mine play the stage at a big venue in the big city as they opened for rock royalty. The second time, at Red Bank's Count Basie Theatre, it was wonderful to see the outpouring of support from all of the Jersey locals who turned out and helped sell out the show. In both cases, as always, Lowlight gave an honest and heartfelt performance. That's always been the appeal of the band to me. No matter how many times I see them live or hear their songs, the band deliver the set as if it were the first (or maybe the last) time.

Last week, Lowlight released a live album that was recorded during their last run with Pretenders. It's Later Than You Think includes live renditions of cuts from both the band's full-length (Where Do We Go From Here) and their recent EP (Born to Run).

The versions here of, say, "Motel Chronicles," "'86 Parisienne," or "Nights and Weekends" illustrate what I'm talking about. Even through a recording, Lowlight's live performance reaches into your chest and grabs you in a way that few other bands do.

The set also includes performances of some unreleased songs like "California Blue" and songwriter Renee Maskin's journalistic observations of life in Asbury Park, "Locals Only." Both of these tracks should, once and for all, get people to stop trying to pigeonhole Lowlight as a country / Americana act. And no Lowlight live recording would be complete without a bit of Maskin's trademark TV-MA ("My mom hates this.") banter.

It's Later Than You Think is out now.

The RockNRoll Hi-Fives, Re-Introducing The RockNRoll Hi-Fives

At the risk of fully transforming this site into, I need to at least tell you about the band's debut full-length, which came out last week.

I've reviewed every one of The RockNRoll Hi-Fives' EPs: here, here, and here. I've booked the band for many, many shows (including the first show I ever threw in 2014). I freaking lived with the Centenos for two weeks as we toured Japan this past April. There's no possible way for me to be impartial about this record. With all that out of the way, I can tell you that this album is an absolute blast. Made up of most of the band's 2016 EP, the Beat the Sound the Dragon's Roar, four new tracks, and Hi-Fives' classic "Livin' the Lost Boy Life," Re-Introducing The RockNRoll Hi-Fives is a glam-infused, hook-filled, loud rock and roll party.

You can hear the increased confidence and skill that have come from doing this family project for the last four-or-so years. Relatively new musicians Gloree, Evren, and Eilee have grown into serious rockers; and veteran guitar hero, Joe, doesn't have to do anywhere near as much of the heavy lifting as before. Eilee has become a legitimate force as a frontperson. Moonlight Mile Recording's Mike Moebius has captured all of this perfectly.

I've seen The RockNRoll Hi-Fives perform almost more times than I can count. I can't hear "Hold On" without seeing Eilee's sneakers stomp around the stage in time with the chugging chorus. I can't hear "Same Mistakes" without seeing her throw her hair as she sings "Honey You. Make the Same! Mis! Takes! I! Do!" I can see Joe doing his "guitar jumping jacks" or running back and forth across the stage during "C'est La Vie." And, while you may not have the same images in your mind as I do, I think anyone listening to this can feel that same energy.

I think I've said some version of this in every one of the reviews I've written of a RockNRoll Hi-Fives' release, so I'll say it again: Music connects people. The RockNRoll Hi-Fives connect with each other as they make music and, in doing that, they bring us all into their orbit.

Re-Introducing The RockNRoll Hi-Fives is out now on Little Dickman Records.

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