The Upshot: Rowdy ‘n’ loud Nashville cowpunks helped make the ‘80s just a bit shinier – and twangier.
BY MICHAEL TOLAND
It’s no big secret anymore that Nashville has more going on that just modern country and Christian contemporary sounds – Music City has had an underground rock scene knocking around since the punk era. During the Reagan years, Jason & the Scorchers ruled that particular roost, and justifiably so, but they were just the tip of the iceberg that also included Tim Krekel and the Sluggers, the Questionnaires and the Royal Court of China, among many others, all of whom released major label recordings that unfortunately went nowhere.
Raging Fire also trod those boards. Comprising singer Melora Zaner, guitarist Michael Godsey, drummer Mark Medley, keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden (long prior to his membership in the Mavericks) and a procession of bass players, the fiery quartet navigated waters fed by the same sea on which the Scorchers sailed, combining a love of C&W storytelling with the flamethrowing bash of punk rock. Falling somewhere between the keenly crafted cowpunk of Lone Justice and the sloppy country metal chaos of Tex & the Horseheads, the band rocked and rolled its way through a sound that was generally being snapped up by labels in the mid-‘80s – yet somehow RF found itself unsigned. That didn’t stop the group from releasing music – cf. the self-released EP A Family Thing and LP Faith Love Was Made Of – but it never found itself on the same route to underground notoriety as its fellow travelers.
Everything is Roses contains cuts from the EP and LP, compilation tracks from the Nashville round-up Hear Rock City: Tennessee Tracks and the now-seminal CMJ comp Ten of a Kind, as well as a pile of demos that could pass for full studio tracks. The band eschewed gimmicks and, for the most part, the Big ‘80s sound, lending the cuts a timeless feel. Blazing rockers like “You and Me,” “The Morning in Her” and “A Desire Scorned” rage like the barnburners you wish your local bar band was playing. The band got more expansive as it got older – “Under the Awning,” “Big Tent” and “I Like to Watch (Feels Good to Be Laughing)” show an ambition to create the kind of anthems that impress thinking rockers and lighter-wavers alike. Other standouts include “The Dry Spell,” a jangling slice of heartland rock, “After Loving One Man in East Texas,” an acoustic lament, and “The Marrying Kind,” the band’s contribution of Ten of a Kind, and probably its best-known and quintessential track. The LP closes with “More Than This,” a 2015 re-recording of a song from Faith Love Was Made Of that features old pals Warner Hodges (Jason & the Scorchers) and Joe Blanton (Royal Court of China) in place of the sadly deceased Godsey.
Based on the evidence found here, Raging Fire deserved the kind of cult following its peers enjoyed. It may not have achieved that during its original run, but with any luck Everything is Roses will earn the band the notoriety it should have enjoyed in its heyday.
A personal aside: I’ve carried around a copy of Ten of a Kind in various formats (first cassette, then LP, as well as CD) since it came out in 1988. “The Marrying Kind” was always one of my favorite cuts from the eclectic compilation, and I’m pleased as punch to finally have the answer to my question: did Raging Fire ever do anything else? Yes, obviously, it did, and it’s all just as good as the song I fell in love with a quarter of a century ago.
DOWNLOAD: “The Marrying Kind,” “Big Tent,” “The Dry Spell”
Go HERE to listen to BLURT’s exclusive premiere of the album’s title track.