The Dunn Boys, Volume 1
“Whiskey fueled Celtic rock” says the press release for The Dunn Boys’ debut, but there’s nothing messy or bleary-eyed about this vigorous band of three brothers and a father out of Canada. Many of these songs do have that drinking-song vibe, but it’s a sharp-nosed, youthful type; actually this is the perfect disc to get you up and out of bed after a whiskey-fueled night. If you like the Pogues and their ilk, you’re almost certain to like The Dunn Boys, who infuse a fresh spirit into Celtic rock.
They can crank out an energetic story song like “The Ballad of Danny Fitzgerald” and a punked-out jig like “Sydney Harbour,” then turn around and produce a romantic ballad like “Rosaline” and the sad, witty “McCreary’s Battle.” The band writes in traditional modes sparked with a modern sensibility, while taking a Canadian perspective. “If God loves every one of us here, then why do good people die?” lead singer Jason Dunn wails in “McCreary’s Battle,” which takes the form of an Irish war lament but concerns a battle of a more local, even internal sort. Don’t bet against The Dunn Boys being a crowd-pleasing favorite for years to come.
Melineh Kurdian, The Where and How
Kurdian’s new EP continues her tradition of pushing out of the “singer-songwriter” box. The five-song set features her gentle voice set nicely in piano-based folk-pop arrangements that make the most of her melodies, which, while easygoing, avoid cliché. “You’re Not There” and especially “Sending Boxes” touch on Nashville territory, but Kurdian’s vocals remain softly focused, rather like Kim Richey’s, instead of reaching for artificial drama. Other than wishing for a little more vocal adrenaline in the moving pop ballad “Only One,” which merits a bit more oomph, I can’t see how I’d want to improve this well-produced EP.
Bedhed and Blondy and the Sleepwalkers, Nuthin’…
There’s nuthin’ awkward about this awkwardly named band, which makes tight, tense, exciting Americana music pumped up with dark elemental rootsiness but touched with country-rock bite and Nashville polish. Led by singers Jay Studdard (the primary songwriter) and Fran Jackson, the band unleashed this, their first electrified release, this past winter; it’s a brief (eight-song) but pointed statement with no filler or fluff. Guitarist Austin Skinner and a fine rhythm section provide a variety of thumping grooves on songs like “Grab Hold,” “Yeah Yeah Yeah,” and “Poison Whiskey,” but the group scores equally with affecting ballads like “I’ve Been Thinkin'” and the title track. Strong songwriting with literate lyrics and superior vocals make this one of the top independent Americana releases of the year so far.