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Russ Still and the Moonshiners - Still Cookin' (2017)




Written by Wayne Toole, posted by blog admin

The fourth studio release from Russ Still and the Moonshiners is a nine song album entitled Still Cookin’. The title proves be a particularly apt description of the band’s musical powers at a point in their recording career where lesser bands begin to back off the gas pedal and settle into predictable formulas. Russ Still and the Moonshiners sound restless, still hungry, and eager to continue deserving a place at the table on the modern rock and traditional country scenes. Still, solely responsible for writing eight out the album’s nine songs, has a commanding presence as both a vocalist and front man – he’s among the mightiest figures working in this style today and the powerful presentation given to his vocals emphasizes the extent of his interpretative skills. This collection is, in turns, grittily authentic, completely modern sounding, and keeps a flag flying that might be decidedly out of fashion with the public en masse, but retains enough support to buoy young careers.

“Promised Land” gets the release off to a confident, stirring beginning. The blues influence coming through in the guitar attack wrings enough authenticity from its traditional line of attack to come off credibly, but never so precious as to prove inaccessible. Great care has obviously been taken to mold these songs in a mainstream direction, but it never comes at the expense of their quality. The lyrics here, as elsewhere on the album, touch on longstanding motifs without ever sounding tired and benefit from a supreme singer in Till. His voice has a curiously compelling mix of gravitas and popular song clarity with a penchant for phrasing far beyond the skill level of many vocalists working within that style. “Long Way From Home” shows a bit of flash with its guitar playing, but it helps further get over the soulfulness underpinning so much of what the band does – it’s a soulfulness running deep enough to make you forget you’ve heard similar sentiments espoused in hundreds of earlier songs. Still and the Moonshiners serve up their take on the subject as if they are the first band to broach the idea in popular song.

“Gone Fishin’” is another memorable moment on the album that sticks to the roof of your mouth as an example of tasty modern country rock, but it has solid construction and real chops driving its appeal. One of the definite keys to the band’s success comes from their unabashed willingness to be who they are and pretend to nothing more – they shamelessly mine everyday life for song subjects and serve up material certain to connect with their target audience. The album’s best ballad, “I Can’t”, is another example of that – if you’ve been listening to music for a long time and pay attention, you can hear a lot of developments and lines in the aforementioned track coming from a mile away, but it’s no matter. Russ Still and the Moonshiners present this album with such forceful charisma that even naysayers are likely to be won over by their enthusiasm and talent.

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Swirl’s recent video for their single “Rise Up” highlights all of the qualities that brought the band to the attention of Ditch Day’s producers. The popular movie highlights three songs from the Southern California four piece and represents some of their biggest exposure yet. It follows on the heels of their self-titled release and the songs selected for inclusion on the film soundtrack represent the quality of that release quite well. The band consists of lead singer Alfred Ramirez, guitarist Duane “DT” Jones”, bassist Shane Carlson, and drummer Brian “Bam Bam” Jones. Their vivid and muscular hard rock veers into outright metal at certain points, but Swirl never goes in for the mindless bash and thud sound so common to lesser bands in this genre. Th…