Reviews

Grand Old Grizzly’s Pure Country Pyrite


By Brian Rock

Grand Old Grizzly strikes gold with their third release, Pure Country Pyrite. Recalling a time before the genre was populated by singer songwriters, folksters, and AAA friendly artists, Grand Old Grizzly captures the energy and excitement of Americana’s early days. In fact, before it even had a name, artists like Old 97s, Uncle Tupelo and Cracker were combining Punk attitudes with Country storytelling to create new and exciting sonic landscapes. Grand Old Grizzly taps into that rich fountainhead to bring a sense of fiery urgency back to Americana.

“Gundowners” is the perfect intro to this primal side of Americana. With frantic, layered guitar strains playing just fast enough to keep ahead of the persistent drumming of the devil’s own hoofbeats, the band tells the haunting story of a pair of rampaging Bonnie and Clyde lovers who are leaving a trail of bodies in their wake. Driven by greed and lust, their own vices catch up with them in the end. But lead singer, Will Thomas’ voice and lyrics paint a vivid, cinematic portrayal of this hell bound couple as he wryly notes, “For some murderous sons of bitches, they sure had a lot of heart.”

The Grizzlies incorporate Tom Petty style jangle-pop in “Took A Little Trip.” Singing about the need to sometimes just get away, Thomas declares, “Anywhere is better than wherever I ain’t headed right now.” Realizing that doing something has got to be better than doing nothing, he urges moving forward even if the outcome is uncertain. After all, the only thing for certain is, “If rock ‘n’ roll ain’t killing you, you probably ain’t doing it right.”

Thomas and bandmates Paul Beebe (guitar,) Mark Riddell (bass,) and Isaias Gil (drums) create incredibly catchy punkabilly hooks that brilliantly underscore the witty and wry storytelling of Thomas’ lyrics. As an astute observer of human nature, Thomas knows that most human actions and reactions boil down to interactions with others. Hence, most of the songs here are about relationships. From the acoustic laments of “Brokedown,” to the joyfully antagonistic “Awkward,” to the exuberant, “Papa Was A Radio,” to the rockin’ “Carmen,”

Grand Old Grizzly delights in exploring the many ways to have a dysfunctional relationship. With lyrics like, “He was breaking bottles back before she’s even walking. Twenty years and she’s still covered in the glass,” (Take It As It Goes) and “A woman in love is a woman at her worst,” (Sunlight) and “I was over me long before I was ever into you,” (Rescind All My Amends); they reveal the many layers and subtexts that lie beneath the surface of our daily relationships. With just the right touches of humor and sympathy, Thomas’ lyrics balance out the emotional wounds he reveals; and the band’s uptempo rhythms are the perfect tonic for tortured souls. Grand Old Grizzly may not be Country, they probably aren’t pure, and they’re definitely not fool’s gold; but Pure Country Pyrite is authentic, energetic Americana.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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