Bri Blahg… Lonely H Solidify Membership In “Concrete Class”

12 08 2009

by Brian Phillips (@BrianBlahg)

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Whenever I get together with my little brother, somewhere between beer three and beer four, the topic invariably turns to our hometown of Port Angeles, Washington. The remote Olympic Peninsula outpost is from a distance a wonder of natural beauty. Pull the moss up though and you’ll find a wormy rotting fir tree of under employment, crystal meth, and quiet desperation. I love to visit, but I can’t live there… It’s like the end of the earth.

As we talk about this place we’re from one of our favorite sub topics is “the most famous people from Port Angeles.” It’s a short list, mostly sports oriented:

1. John Elway. Hall of Fame Quarterback. Born in PA, left at six months old.

2. Jack Elway. John’s father. Was my dad’s gym teacher. Went on to coach son at Stanford.

3. Raymond Carver. Brilliant short story author. Was not born in PA, but died and is buried there. I’ll lay claim.

4. Bernie Fryer. NBA and ABA player 1973-75. Only ex NBA to also ref in the league. Hung up his whistle in 2007.

5. Jim Michalczik. Recently hired as offensive coordinator at The University Of Washington. Held same post at Cal. Washington State offensive lineman in the 80’s.

6. Scott Jones. Three years in the NFL with The Packers, Jets, and Bengals. High school team mate of Michaelcizk. Played college ball at Washington.

7. Jeff Ridgway. To my knowledge, the only major league baseball player from P.A. Lifetime record: 1-0 ERA: 9.90. Released by The Braves this past off season.

If you grew up in a small town, I’m sure you’ve done a similar accounting. We would all like to think our nowhere burg produced special people that went on to do great things. Hell Ridgway made it to the show. Only 6% of minor leaguers ever get that far.

The odds are just as stacked against anyone looking to make it in the music business. The greatest band from Port Angeles was probably Billy Corvette and The Smashers and they were a cover band. That is until the past few years when The Lonely H graduated high school and began touring America.

Looking like The Allman Brothers circa 1971 The Lonely H are barely out of their teens and already have three albums to their credit. The latest “Concrete Class” continues the steady growth the band had already exhibited with 2007’s “Hair.”

With thousands of miles in the old Econoline now behind them, the new album winds itself out at a long stretch of road pace. “Right Down On Me” has a courtly banjo, some lap steel color, and crunchy Black Crowes riffs for bricks and mortar. “White Horse Tears” is a nice side trip into gospel and Memphis soul. Lead singer Mark Fredson is clearly loving the different places he’s taking his voice, and the Sunday services organ and piano he played on the track too.

“Cold Blues” is a bit more in line with the older stuff. Brothers Eric and Johnny Whitman, and drummer Ben Eyestone reach a nice gallop. “Diggin’ A Hole” sounds like a great lost Faces track.

A few months back the band told me they had been listening to The Eagles a lot in the van. It wasn’t for nothing. “Singer” is a very clear nod in their direction. “Phoenix” takes us straight to the Stones “Exile On Mainstreet.” The band sounds like they’ve encircled a single mic and can smell the Jack Daniels on each other’s breath. As long as we’re playing spot the influence, “Other Side Of The Water” might be at home on a Bad Company record…. or, if played a bit differently, AC/DC.

The song “Jersey” is actually a couple of thousand miles away from Bruce’s state. It has a nice Americana feel to it ala The Jayhawks. “The River” is the Boss in name only. The 2:00 exercise in four part harmonies and some simple acoustic strumming will no doubt be a show finisher this year. Very nice. “Take Care” is a gorgeous little blues number.

“Hit The Road” is a song the band has been playing longer than the others and is a nice slow building classic rock tune about…. well being on the road of course, a time honored rock song topic. And that’s really the point. With several long tours under their belts now, The Lonely H have joined “The Concrete Class.”

If this were 1974 (and Bernie Fryer were playing in the ABA) there’s not a doubt in my mind this album would have been a big seller. In 2009 the danger with a record like this is that it comes off as a tribute album or museum piece. The Lonely H know the secret though. Albums, especially ones this informed by the past, live and die on their songs. I’d say the songs, and the band do the old home town proud.

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