Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: June 12th, 2015 via Firebrand Records
I recently discovered the music of Ike Reilly after seeing a post on Tom Morello’s Facebook page. The post read, “I’m in Libertyville bailing out Firebrand Records artist/outlaw Ike Reilly who had another standoff shouting match with local cops (2nd in one week) The authorities eventually tired of the defiant, boozy, smarty pants former mayoral candidate hollering “F*CK YOU!!” in their faces and made their move. Undaunted, Ike grabbed his bottle of Smirnoff and six pack of Milwaukee’s Best and took off through the bushes. You can’t get on his level but you’d do well to check out his record”. Naturally, this badass attitude of Reilly and the good word put in by Morello had me more than intrigued to checkout his latest album, Born On Fire.
Stylistically, Born On Fire is a difficult record to classify. Some of the slower songs, like the title track or “Underneath The Moon” show inspiration from artists who create a lyrical narrative to pair with their bluesy folk, such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. When not creating a loving narrative, Reilly’s lyrics focus strongly on the political and social state of middle to lower class America. “A Job Like That (Lasalle & Grand)” and “Two Weeks-A-Work, One Night-A-Love” both seem to reflect the issue of well-paying, secure jobs, and the lasting consequences created by these struggles are further explored in “Good Looking Boy” where discusses how all these problems will fall on the ill prepared, younger generation. Other songs, while faster than the ballads, but still with a bluesy, rootsy, classic rock vibe, resemble the work of Tom Petty, but when Reilly truly stretches his range and belts out, his voice resembles a similar rasp, slightly gravelly, to that of Scott Weiland. His voice, although resembling all these great musicians, still remains unique element which builds upon a number of classic and modern rock influences.
While many songs seem to feature a softer instrumental tone, Ike Reilly truly makes a statement when he indulges into roaring guitars. “A Job Like That (Lasalle & Grand)” is one of the best examples of distorted chords played over a flurry of blues rock riffs and a dissonant, hard rock solo. “Do The Death Slide!” and “Black Kat” also follow in a similar style of bluesy rock with more than a few sweet guitar licks. Continuing with the difficulty of classifying this record, the more upbeat songs often stand with one foot in the blues, and the other in the alternative hard rock of the 1990’s. Morello probably best described this fusion of styles when he described Reilly’s work as “It’s, like, part Springsteen, part Replacements”. Even the closing track, “Paradise Lane”, what may be the softest song on the album blends a harder edge through an effected, but soulful, electric solo on the guitar from rocker and founder of Firebrand Records, Tom Morello.
While I may not have set out a clear example of what genre Born On Fire clearly fits into, I feel Reilly truly shines through such a multifaceted and diverse collection of songs. He can be sorrowful and soulful, angry and at peace, but he is always vulnerable. It is in this state of rawness which makes this record come to life as a voice for the American people, making him one of the most important, or at least needed, American song writer to emerge in the 2000’s. Musically, his songs are inspired greatly by a rich history of American folk and blues elements, outfitted with rock ‘n’ roll textures, while allowing for hints of alternative and hard rock, funk, and modern gospel to sneak their way into the mix. Born On Fire is an absolutely brilliant record which demonstrates Reilly’s very organic and sophisticated song writing style along with his ability to capture the state of modern day America through his use of traditional American, blue collar music, and his deep lyrical narratives. All in all, Born On Fire in a wonderful record as Ike Reilly not only delivers not just a unique musical experience, but one with an incredibly powerful message.
1: Born On Fire
2: A Job Like That (Lasalle & Grand)
3: Underneath The Moon
4: Do The Death Slide!
5: Am I Still The One For You?
6: Two Weeks-A-Work, One Night-A-Love
7: Hangin’ Around
8: Notes From Denver International Airport
9: The Black Kat
10: Live Like We’re Dying
11: Upper Mississippi River Valley Girl
12: Good Looking Boy
13: Paradise Lane (Featuring Tom Morello)