This was the case with me when a friend dragged me along to Oxjam 2011 and I stumbled across Rusty Shackle, a six-piece consisting of Liam, Scott, James, Baz, Owen and Ryan, who play a multitude of instruments between them. Ever since, I have been an avid fan of them and have become a regular fixture at their local gigs over the past few years. A metalhead at heart, you will often find me blasting some noisy band with screeching guitars and bellowing unintelligible vocals but for some reason I was just drawn to this extremely individual and unique “folk and roll” band.
And this is the good thing about this band. They’re just an accessible band that you can’t help but love after catching their lively show for the first time.
I personally thought their debut release, Wash Away These Nights, was a magnificent release, but their new album The Bones just blows it out of the water in comparison. It shows a natural progression of style and ideas, as well as how far they have come in the past few years – since releasing their debut album, they have headlined Devauden Music Festival and won a “battle of the bands”-type competition to win a slot at Cardiff’s Olympic Torch relay concert, to name but a few achievements!
We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Bones and it’s a cracker. To cut a long story short, it is all killer and no filler; ten tracks of sheer awesomeness.
The album gets off to a fantastic start with title track The Bones, which was recently released as a single. A light-hearted sounding and infectious track, it gets stuck in your head before you know it and I can’t think of a better way to get the album going. A foot-tappingly good tune that you’ll be singing along to for weeks. Tall Tales is another interesting and catchy track. It begins with a deceptively slow and relaxed introduction that showcases Liam’s vocals, before leading into a massive chorus with the full band joining in for good measure.
Driving Into The Dust is the first track where I got to hear new member Ryan (trumpet/bass) for the first time. Only formally becoming a member a few weeks back (after the album was recorded), he did perform on a few tracks of the album and this is one of them, treating the listeners to a trumpet solo that had a fantastic tone to it. What I really liked was that the solo was also played on the fiddle earlier with a somewhat lighter feel – it truly is fantastic how much difference a simple change of instruments can do to the mood of a song and it worked really well.
One of the things I tend to notice with albums is that the middle parts always seem to be a little weaker than the beginning and closing tracks, but this definitely isn’t the case with The Bones – in fact, my personal favourites are right in the middle – Thinking and All At Sea.
Thinking has already been a staple of their set for a long while and rightly so, as it is a massively memorable song. The whole tune just gets caught in your head and it has the perfect opportunity for a bit of crowd participation with the “dah-dah-dah-dums” that are simply asking to be sung along to in the last third of the song! In fact, I’ve found myself humming along to it on numerous occasions since my first listen of the album.
One of the things I like best about All At Sea is the fiddle line played by Scott, both when it is the “lead” instrument and when it is only in the background. It’s a lovely little intricate melody in parts and I particularly liked the sliding between notes! But the thing that stood out to me about this song was the lyrics. They just seemed to resonate within me and it just felt like they were tailor-made for me. If that’s not some great lyricism, then I don’t know what is!
Glorious May was (unsurprisingly) written during the glorious bank holiday we had at the beginning of May and it’s an upbeat track which contrasts nicely with the previous one. It’s a fun little track that you’ll be tapping your foot along to by the end of it.
Penultimate track Tommy’s Letter is a very poignant little number with some absolutely stunning lyrics about a soldier going to war. Overall it’s quite a simple song but that’s what works best – it really makes you pay attention to the lyrics and vocals. It’s just extremely well-constructed and it’s one of those tracks that’s capable of bringing a tear to your eye.
Album closer Rosie Lee is an upbeat ending for the album. If I remember rightly, this was actually performed at the album launch for their previous album! Either way, it’s been in their set for a long time and it is certainly refreshing to hear a recorded version of it. It just sounds like a hopeful song, looking forward to what the future will bring.
And with a gig at the British Embassy at the end of the year, the future can only be bright for this incredible band. If you don’t have Rusty Shackle in your life, you need to buy this album – one thing is for sure, you won’t be disappointed.