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Rose's Pawn Shop are five young guys from LA who've absorbed every bit of roots based music they can find and after several years of intensive performance have honed their sound to produce their own distinctively fired up brand of folk-rock. They are led by vocalist and songwriter Paul Givant and according to their reviews they manage to sound like as many different things as they have listeners; for my money they sound like nothing so much as America's answer to The Levellers. In case you're in any doubt, this is definitely A Good Thing.

The title song opens the album and sounds pretty much like Uncle Tupelo re-born, but as things progress the mighty rhythm section married to some furious fiddle and banjo playing with Paul Givant's yearning folk voice driving along the top of things just puts me in mind of The Levellers over and over again. As far as I can discern they don't have The Levellers' political agenda - the lyrics seem rather more personal than ideological - but the drive and the energy are there, right enough. I'd listened to the album a few times without sussing its personality, but then I tried turning it up really loud. That worked. Ethan Allen's production job seems designed to capture the blood and thunder of a live show, and it sure works at doing that. When the slower numbers come along you can almost hear the sweat dripping as people catch their breath.

This is totally and utterly a band who bring out the best in each other. Whilst Ulf Geist and Stephen Andrews pound out furious rhythms, John Kraus on guitar and banjo and Tim Weed on fiddle and mandolin just drive the whole thing along with fire and fury. The fiddle playing especially is frequently stellar; a touch of The Devil Went Down To Georgia finishes one song with a flourish but then the next number may be drawn to a close with an elegaically mournful fiddle line taken from some central European tradition. It all sounds gloriously un- LA. There are echoes of many other bands and occasionally the vocals are given a treatment which comes over like hi-energy Fleet Foxes, but ultimately you'd have to say they've done a great job of finding their own style.

There are many moments where the performance has a visceral excitement rarely caught on a recording; the urgency and intensity of a live event are right there and it's a great thing to hear. 'Pine Box' is possibly the most radio-friendly of the album's dozen songs; all those folk-rock elements are married to a slightly more relaxed driving beat to make it a pretty neat American road song. There's a nice couplet in there about 'I can't turn water into wine/Or music into cash...' but I think these guys are plenty good enough to make a long career and a reasonable pile of cash along the way. If they get to the UK at all it'd be worth going to some lengths to catch them live but in the meantime get hold of this cd and Play It Loud!
John Davy

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September 2018

The Devil Makes Three
70 pts.
Chains Are Broken
New West
Jimmy LaFave
65 pts.
Peace Town
Music Road Records
Malcolm Holcombe
48 pts.
Come Hell Or High Water
Gypsy Eyes Music
Cody Canada & the Departed
47 pts.
Blue Rose Records
Jeffrey Foucault
43 pts.
Blood Brothers
Blueblade Records
The War And Treaty
42 pts.
Healing Tide
Thirty Tigers
Martha Fields
40 pts.
Dancing Shadows
The Weight Band
35 pts.
World Gone Mad
Must Have Music
David Olney
32 pts.
This Side Or The Other
Black Hen Music
The Black Sorrows
32 pts.
Citizen John
Blue Rose Records
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis
31 pts.
Wild Wild Wild
Bloodshot Records
Hadley McCall Thackston
28 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
Nathan Bell
28 pts.
Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth
Angry Stick
Curse Of Lono
26 pts.
As I Fell
Submarine Cat Records
Ryan Martin
25 pts.
Gimme Some Light
High Moon
Stephen Simmons
25 pts.
Locke Creek Records
Jason McNiff
23 pts.
Joy And Independence
At The Helm Records
Jim Lauderdale
23 pts.
Time Flies
Yep Roc
Kevin Gordon
23 pts.
Tilt and Shine
Crowville Media
Eliza Gilkyson
21 pts.
Red House Records
Boz Scaggs
20 pts.
Out Of the Blues
Concord Records
20 pts.
Among The Ghosts
Thirty Tigers
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
20 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
The Jayhawks
17 pts.
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels
Lori McKenna
16 pts.
Cn Records

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