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Friday
06
JUL

River City Presents: Chris Rattie & The New Rebels/Ben Brandt

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Chris Rattie blends country’s aching ethos with a keen eye for the future. He rises out of the muck and mire to be one of today’s most riveting, astute storytellers. The singer, songwriter and musician wraps his Steve Earle-wrinkled voice around tales of self-realization and wonder on his latest album. Porch (released Sept. 15) is steeped in frothy Americana, burnt around the edges with electric guitar and honest, godforsaken songwriting. “I’ve been out all night long singing these heartbroke songs. Ain’t nobody listening,” he sings on “A Little Shot Glass from Spain.” Later, he pontificates “Country Boy” tropes, fed with a provocative spoken word intro. “Country boy drives a big red truck. Loves rolling coal, it makes him feel real tough. Rebel flag stuck on the back,” he wails over smokey guitar lines and a honky-tonk rumble.

Nestled away in the flowing hills of Pennsylvania, Rattie bore his heart, anchored with plenty of harmonica playing, foot-stomping rhythm and blues, and highfalutin banjo plucking. His musical ambitions mirror the expansive and breathtaking nature which rose and fell around the studio space, licensing him to peel back the layers of bombast for more nuanced, grounded compositions. Whether he is sharing a tender embrace with smoldering opener “My Mountain” or unraveling a tale of jail time on “Prisoner 743,” an affecting earth-rich mid-tempo, he tips his hat to the hearty groundwork of such pioneers as Johnny Cash, Ryan Adams and Keith Whitley, stitching his own vibrant tapestry along the way. Joined with long-time collaborators Forrest Schwartz and Jason “Junior” Tutwiler, who both assisted in producing and engineering the album, Rattie rollicks through the heartland at break-neck speed.

Porch is as much a masterful creative accomplishment as it is a raw recollection of his tireless journey to get there, the culmination of years of blood, sweat and tears. A native to central Pennsylvania, he cut his teeth as drummer for Vince Welnick of The Tubes and The Grateful Dead, drummer and prominent songwriter in The Rustlanders (whose second album was helmed by producer Don Was and recorded in L.A.’s East West Studios), and vocals/drums/guitar in rock band Marah. The experiences wrought invaluable wisdom, bestowing upon him the exact skills he needed to write, record and play the album he was always destined to make. Through nine coarsely-delivered, poignant tracks, Rattie defies convention and situates himself as transcendent. The addition of a new bass player named Jeff Downing would mark the official manifestation of Chris Rattie & The New Rebels.

His second studio effort stands in stark contrast to his 2013 bow, All These Things, a decidedly dark twist of humanity. Already, certain tastemakers have become hypnotized by his electrifying risk-taking. “Together Rattie and his band create rustic rock, with a blend of energy and heart that could only result from a destined partnership,” music critic Jordan Blum once beamed. Kevin Briggs, of Centre Daily Times, described Rattie’s latest record as “an audio portrait of Rattie’s mind, showing the luminescent brightness of personal triumphs while still retaining echoes of the darkness from which the light emerged. This album is like a soundtrack for the process of ascension, and Rattie has carved it out for us to hear.”

Rattie’s Porch signals a crucial moment for not only his career but for Americana music. He’s fearless, bold, engaging, and he is just getting started. He has plenty of road left to pound, and the industry will be waiting with bated breath. -- Jason Scott, B Sides & Badlands