I have a confession to make: I love the fiddle. Special note here: I especially like it when it's played by a nice-looking lady like Katie Weed.
Confession No. 2: I dig the banjo. I know this puts a mark on my hardcore punk card, but I really don't care. The fact that John Rosen makes it scream for mercy just makes it better.
I first caught Old Man Markley at Punk Rock Bowling 12 in 2010. I was blown away by their stage presence and musicianship, and since then I have been waiting patiently for their first release. When I found out that Fat Mike had signed them, I thought, "Perfect!" My patience paid off with the release of Guts N' Teeth.
OMM bill themselves as "punk bluegrass." Some songs on the record are more bluegrass than punk, but with lyrics like "My winter coat was red (like the color of her dress) / Now I held her one last time (then I laid her down to rest) / Well, I gave her every chance (she should have realized) / That's why they had me locked away (that's why she had to die)." I can see Ricky Skaggs getting his own noose ready. I read somewhere that OMM was "the American Flogging Molly." I would have to agree. Flogging Molly's music has its roots in Irish folk music, and Old Man Markley pushes the same crack, but based on the American tradition of bluegrass.
Guts N' Teeth is a very good record and a fantastic freshman release. The production quality is everything you have come to expect from Fat. The most impressive aspect of this record is the arrangements. When you can make eight musicians, four vocalists and who knows how many actual instruments come out sounding that good...you have done a very good thing.
The first track on the record, "For Better for Worse" is a perfect opener. Fast and melodic, it lets you know right off the bat what to expect. Other standout tracks include "Running Weight", a song about transporting illegal substances. This song brings back some fond memories of the Reverend Horton Heat. I love the melody, and the harmonica rolling through the background is a genius touch.
The title track, "Guts N' Teeth" is one of my favorites on the record. The vocal harmonies work perfectly. One question: Is that Fat Mike I smell in the studio? Ghost producer, maybe?
"Song Songs" is a great song, outlining the types of songs we all listen to while landing in its own category of "songs about songs." It is thoughtful in its accounting of songs while also being thought-provoking as you recall songs that fit exactly to the lyrics: "Songs that you know every word to, so you can sing along"–yep, this one too.
I have a personal playlist called "Looking for Blues in All the Wrong Places." Songs like "Artificial Red" by Mad Season and Jet Boy's "Hometown Blues" fill the list. The OMM song "Lowdown Blues" will fit right in.
Overall, this is a great record. I have listened to it back-to-back several times. A must-have. If you have the chance to catch these guys live, don't miss it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.