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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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May 2018

John Prine
67 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
Levi Parham
58 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
Jeb Barry and the Pawn Shop Saints
55 pts.
Texas, etc...
Michael McDermott
54 pts.
Out From Under
Continental Song City
Sam Morrow
48 pts.
Concrete and Mud
Forty Below Records
Caleb Caudle
39 pts.
Crushed Coins
Cornelius Chapel Records
Western Centuries
36 pts.
Songs From The Deluge
Free Dirt Records
Carter Sampson
34 pts.
Continental Song City
Charley Crockett
30 pts.
Lonesome as a Shadow
Son of Davy/30 Tigers
Courtney Marie Andrews
28 pts.
May Your Kindness Remain
Loose Music
Ed Romanoff
27 pts.
The Orphan King
Pinerock Records
Joan Baez
27 pts.
Whistle Down The Wind
Proper Records
Pharis and Jason Romero
27 pts.
Sweet Old Religion
Lula Records
Gretchen Peters
24 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
Old Crow Medicine Show
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Will Stewart
24 pts.
County Seat
Cornelius Chapel Records
Ben Reel
22 pts.
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Love In Wartime
Signature Sounds
Emily Herring
22 pts.
Eight 30 Records
Jenny van West
21 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Mary Gauthier
21 pts.
Rifles And Rosary Beads
In the Black Records
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
20 pts.
Bloodshot Records
David Starr
19 pts.
South And East
Cold Tone Harvest
18 pts.
After You
Grant Peeples
17 pts.
Settling Scores vol. 2

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