Album Review: Rusty G’s – Low

Rusty G’s – Low

Rusty G's

photo by Geoff Wilbur

The Backstory

I first became aware of Rusty G’s when I saw them perform live in London on Halloween night. They were the opening act for guitar god Bernie Tormé, and the show was the fifth entry in my “Five Nights in London” series of live reviews. I arrived at the concert in time to catch the opening act, which was Rusty G’s, and it turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant surprise. Raw, raucous, rough and ready. And way too much sound to be coming from a two-piece band! Now, several months later, I have the privilege of reviewing the band’s debut album, Low.

Album Review of Rusty G’s: Low

Rusty G's - Low

image courtesy of Rusty G’s

Doing power trios one better, Rusty G’s is a rare “power duo.” If it were easy, bass players could soon find themselves made redundant, but these guys have achieved a rare feat: They’ve constructed a complete sound as a two-piece. Slated for a May 9th release, Rusty G’s debut full-length album Low confirms the “power duo.” designation. Singer/guitarist James Finch and drummer Dan Lopez deliver a raucous disc of heavy metal that garnishes its lush power rock sound with a stripped-down edge.

Opening track “Oh Yeah” kicks things off in a blaze of guitar before settling into a junkyard dog-esque, bare-bones, raw rock style. On this cut, I’m especially fond of the bluesy guitar riff that wails late in the song as it’s winding down, providing the only hint to the track’s impending conclusion since the drums never let up. The vocals on “Oh Yeah” (and the rest of the disc) are of the old-school, early metal, “sing loudly, as near the edge of the vocalist’s range as possible while still being gravelly but tuneful” variety. Exactly as you’d expect to appropriately accompany the music.

Rusty G's

photo courtesy of Rusty G’s

“Crawl” follows with a killer riff providing a monster hook to the otherwise pulsing, relentlessly plodding steamroller of a rhythm.

A raw guitar hook that embeds itself into my brain for days at a time – not surprisingly, perhaps, punctuating what has become my initial favorite track on the disc – is featured front and center in “I Don’t Want This.” And it’s not just the monster guitar hook; the “ooh, I don’t want this” line is an earworm, too.

One of the more jangly, raucous tracks on Low is “Don’t Belong.” Its melody suggests this may translate exceptionally well to other musical styles; it ain’t necessarily just a metal number. The verses hint at a blues-punk-metal hybrid, while the fog of heaviness in the bridges suggests a rougher-edged version of Metallica-era Metallica.

Rusty G's

photo courtesy of Rusty G’s

Later in the collection, there’s an impressive stop-start rhythm and heavy, metal-bluesy, growling guitar hook in “Waiting” that’s augmented by some nice, true-to-the-song drum runs, sometimes expressive, other times seemingly in anger.

Though not the only place on Low this occurs, “Static” is notable as primarily a drum-driven selection, with the vocals and guitar (aside perhaps from a late solo) playing supporting roles to the drums’ rhythm and short runs. Not a showy song; just real damn solid. And a strong showcase of how a two-piece metal band can be versatile without going mellow.

And if you want an example of prog-influenced heavy rock, you’ll find it at the end of Low. “Losing You” has the fast, slow, experimental, soft-and-heavy elements that could easily be prog-rock influenced. It’s a great way to round out the album, with this six-minute opus extending to the final curtain.

Heavy and cohesive throughout yet with enough variance to stay fresh from song to song, Low makes a good beginning-to-end listen. My personal standout tracks likely differ from yours, but they all maintain a raw power, rhythm, and broad rock appeal that encompass Rusty G’s trademark sound. Yes, power duos are a thing now.

Rusty G's

photo by Geoff Wilbur

Upcoming Gigs

I’ve seen Rusty G’s live, and I can confirm they put on one heck of a show. This is a great live band, so get out to a gig if you can.

According to Rusty G’s website, you can catch the band live at a variety of venues in the coming months: on Friday, May 6th at Craufurd Arms in Milton Keynes; on Wednesday, May 18th at The Dublin Castle in London; on Friday, May 20th at Maida Vale in Sheffield; on Tuesday, May 31st, supporting Cold in Berlin at Gullivers in Manchester; on Wednesday, June 1st, supporting Cold in Berlin at Bannermans in Edinburgh; on Friday, June 10th at the Willow Festival in Northampton; on Saturday, July 2nd at Cranfest in Cranfield; on Friday, August 19th at Tribfest in Yorkshire; on Saturday, August 27th at Bridgnorth Festival; and on Saturday, September 3rd, supporting Eat This at The Castle in Wellingborough. Obviously, check the band’s website for additional bookings, details, and changes.

Five Nights in London #5: Bernie Tormé

Bernie Torme with Rusty G’s

The Borderline, London
October 31, 2015

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Geoff’s Night Out: Five Nights in London #5

I was in London for five nights and planned to review one show each night. I accomplished that goal, and this is a review of Night #5. I wasn’t sure where to go on Saturday night as recently as yesterday, but after a bit of research, I stumbled across Bernie Tormé’s gig at The Borderline and thought a night back in my original genre would make a good end to the trip. As a few of you may know, hard rock/heavy metal has always been my “home” as a genre, and one of my earliest writing gigs was for Tough Tracks magazine “back in the day.” So reviewing this show was sort of like going back to my roots.

In fact, The Borderline reminded me a lot of Axis, which was one of the clubs where I spent a lot of time in Boston way back when I started as a rock journalist. So yes, you’ll find me “going there” from time to time. It’s still my music, even as my tastes have broadened with so many years of reviewing every type of music sent my way.

Rusty G's

Rusty G’s; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Support Act: Rusty G’s

It seemed rather odd seeing just two band members on stage, and the powerful wall of music the power duo puts forth is incredible. The band opened with a raw hard rocker with a surprisingly tuneful vocal. The next tune was rawer with a little punk influence and great, manic drumming. Rusty G’s then proceeded to open its next number Blue Oyster Cult-ishly, more raw but with nice tempo changes.

Overall, Rusty G’s are a solid rock band. I still can’t get over the fact that such a full, catchy hard rock sound comes from a 2-piece. Musically, the band is really good at finding and maintaining a rock ‘n roll rhythm in its songs — or for stretches of songs, as Rusty G’s will change the rhythm sometimes within a song. They’re an impressive live band, and not just because of the drummer’s flying hair.

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Headliner: Bernie Tormé

Wow! It has been a long time since I’ve seen a guitar god in action, and Bernie Tormé has the pedigree to accompany his flying fingers. The dude’s an axemaster extraordinaire! I’ll let you look it up for yourself if you don’t already know him, and though this style of music hits my sweet spot of music knowledge, I’ll admit I wasn’t familiar with him until I checked out his résumé before deciding to attend this show.

Oh, but the packed club knew exactly who he was. They knew all of his songs back through his musical history. Many even helped crowdfund his new album, Blackheart. And I was about to experience what they already knew. Bernie Tormé can shred with the best of them.

Indeed, right from the start of first song “Wild West,” Bernie and his power trio were obviously in the big leagues. That was followed by a straight-up rockin’ tune with a bluesy-ish vibe and a catchy rhythm… and oh my god, the guitar licks!

Bernie Tormé

Bernie Tormé; photo by Geoff Wilbur

Just about every song had some amazing guitar and was driven by trademark heavy metal rhythm section. The vocals and song styles were well-structured yet raw-feeling, as if your favorite band in concert, without any of the bells and whistles that cleaned up the sound in the studio. This was a rawk and roll concert, baby!

There were a couple of songs whose opening rhythms were reminiscent of a cross between the rhythms of Scorpions’ “The Zoo” and George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.” Bernie pulled out a harmonica on another hard-rocking tune. Many of the songs marched along full steam ahead, but Bernie can throw in some hooks, too, to get fans singing or at least moving to the song on the first listen. And there were, in fact, a couple of songs with audience-participation vocal parts.

Just past the midpoint of the show, the band took a seat on the front of the stage, Bernie grabbed an acoustic-electric guitar, and the group treated its crowd to a one-song change-of-pace.

In all, if my count is correct (and it may not be), after 14 songs (15 if you include the drum solo), the band left the stage, only to be recalled enthusiastically for a two-song encore. The first, which Bernie began with the phrase “you should know this one,” was rocker “No Easy Way.” He and his band followed that with mellower “The Party’s Over.”

And with that, a real rock show ended, and Bernie and his band left the stage to mingle with their throng of supporters. I can think of no more felicitous end to my five nights in London that a return to my roots by covering a guitar god-driven hard rock/metal club show.

What’s Next?

Certainly, at least for a while, the flurry of articles will subside. I have some ideas for review but will also continue to set up the behind-the-scenes items, including getting some other writers up and running for the blog so it isn’t just me doing all the writing anymore. Also, I’ll be back at work again, so I’ll lack the free time I’ve had that has allowed me to write 14 articles in the last two weeks.

But please enjoy these first 14 articles, look back through them if you haven’t already and discover some great music spanning several genres. And do subscribe so you’ll get them delivered directly to your inbox. (There’s probably an option to do that in the bottom right of your screen, at least if you’re viewing this on your PC.) Now that we’re launched, I do promise not to clog your inbox. My rule of thumb will be no more than one a day, a rule I’ll possibly never break now that we’re up and running and actually have subscribers. Indeed, I’m glad to be back writing about music again, and I hope you will continue to enjoy reading what my team and I share with you on Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog.