An electric punch

Back in the 70s and 80s, this sort of rootsy rock and roll was ever-so-easy to hear. While Tom Petty and John Mellencamp are the best-known adherents today, it's also quite easy to hear "Copperhead Road" era Steve Earle as well. Skiles makes sure to populate his acoustic licks laid over electric power chords with plenty of organ on the edges.

Aaron Skiles
Whistle Past the Grave

There are plenty of roots references, but Skiles also includes a healthy dose of punky garage kick as well. Unlike Uncle Tupelo, which fused Replacements-esque punk anarchy with a more contemplative take on cosmic country and folk, Skiles goes the other way and features a blistering and highly technical feel.

Back in the day (1986 or so), there was an L.A. band called the Unforgiven. They signed for an ungodly amount of money, released an album of punchy, gang-vocal western anthems and promptly got dropped. Johnny Hickman (one of three lead guitarists, another unique feature of that band) moved across the country and formed Cracker with David Lowry. Anyway, I hear a lot of the Unforgiven here, absent the multi-layered vocals. "Bad for You", in particular, sounds almost dead-on.

Okay, back from that tangent. Skiles has recorded eight songs that clock in at just past 20 minutes. It's an easy listen, and the excitement is palpable from the first riff. This is rock and roll, not americana, though I would imagine just about any genre would want to claim it (not to anthropomorphize musical trends, of course). Skiles is one hell of a songwriter, and he's just as skilled and charismatic in his recording. What a wonderful, spiky breeze.

Jon Worley

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