Ike Reilly – Hard Luck Stories

January 01, 1970

(Rock Ridge Music)




Ike Reilly holds nothing back. He knows only one way to
write – passionately, honestly, fiercely – and one way to sing – as if all the
world has to pay attention, and the only way to do that is to spit out the
words quickly, making them sound spontaneous even though the poetic leaps are
so rich there’s no way they just popped into his head. Hard Luck Stories is the third masterpiece in a row after 2007’s We Belong to the Staggering Evening and
2008’s Poison the Hit Parade. Reilly
has been making music off and on for two decades, but he’s finally attracting
the attention he deserves with the best music of his career.


Hard Luck Stories continues the trend of these past two
records, exaggerating events as disparate as the inability to pay an electric
bill or the refusal of a woman to love him into raucously rocking exuberant
thrill rides of basic rock’n’roll. There is nothing new in the sound of Ike
Reilly and his cohorts (no longer referred to as the Ike Reilly Assassination,
presumably because the whole band doesn’t show up on every track, and some
other players drop in now and again). If you’ve heard Bob Dylan’s electric
stuff, or early Bruce Springsteen, or even recent Hold Steady, you’ll be
familiar with the template. Guitars, bass, drums, maybe keyboards hugging the
chord changes, occasionally slipping in an extra hook under Reilly’s verbose
yet catchy lyrics set to the simplest of melodies. And it never once gets


The album’s centerpiece is a duet with Shooter Jennings, a
kindred spirit in truth-telling, who helps Reilly take “The War on the Terror
and the Drugs” into a majestic look at the ridiculousness of fighting words or concepts
rather than actions. Here as elsewhere, Reilly’s depiction of sex can be
appropriately vulgar, as the “young ones to cream on” are juxtaposed with the
“one with the arm I wouldn’t mind being seen on.”  If you’re trying to fend off terror with sex,
well, it does probably take all kinds of approaches. And when the song shifts
gears (as Reilly songs inevitably do) away from humor to a seriously horrific
verse describing something truly terrible, the desire to lose the pain makes
the idea of fighting “terror” seem even more hopeless. Did I mention this is an
incredibly bouncy, undeniably infectious rock sing-along?


Elsewhere, David Lowery from Cracker and Camper Van
Beethoven offers duet vocals on the truly sad “The Ballad of Jack and Haley,”
which shows the pain of the war on drugs up close and personal; “7 Come Eleven”
makes getting high and falling in love seem interchangeable; Reilly’s tears at
rejection ruin the floorboards in “Morning Glory”; and “The Golden Corner”
verges on being a modern-day “Born to Run,” albeit with a much simpler level of
desire for merely one great day.


Hard Luck Stories was released digitally a few months ago, but the CD comes with two bonus tracks
– a new song, “Flowers on Down” which is haunting and sad, and a live acoustic-only
version of his excellent “Broken Parakeet Blues” from the last album.


Standout Tracks: “The
War on the Terror and the Drugs,” “The Ballad of Jack and Haley,” “7 Come





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