I discovered Ike Reilly just this last year, a week after he had appeared at the Drake Hotel in Toronto in support of his latest album Born on Fire. What an opportunity missed! But Reilly is not new on the scene, with recordings as far back as 2001, and performing career stretching back to the late 1980s. Imagine Bruce Springsteen meets hip hop, but by someone who could really pull it off. That guy is Ike Reilly. His material has all the great rock and roll vibes accompanied by an effortless alternating talk/singing style. Like Springsteen, Reilly gives voice to the sense of hopelessness and desolation facing working class communities in the face of catastrophic job losses and a general lack of political leadership. And like Bruce, he manages to capture the vignettes that make a life: the broken promises, the failed adventures, the unfulfilled potential.
From the three albums attributed to just Ike Reilly (there are three more with his backing band The Ike Reilly Assassination) I count at least nine must-listen tracks, though I feature a few less here. From his most recent Born on Fire “Am I Still the One For You” and “Underneath the Moon” are both great songs, but “Two Weeks-a-Work – One Night-a-Love” has a great groove and carries on Reilly’s strong career focus on work and the lack thereof.
Two Weeks-a-Work, One Night-a-Love
2009’s Hard Luck Stories showcases the struggle for meaningful work on a host of songs but “Good Work” nicely captures the dilemma facing today’s youth who, despite partying together, will see some move effortlessly from privilege to opportunity while others struggle for whatever they can get. From the same record, “Girls in the Backroom” has a raucus sing-a-long quality masking some pretty desperate behaviour.
The Girls in the Backroom
Winding back to 2001 and what can only be considered a minor masterpiece, Reilly’s Salesmen and Racists is a no-holds-barred critique of America’s class society but remains a remarkably tuneful indictment. “My Wasted Friends,” “Duty Free” and “Hip Hop Thighs” have hooks galore and a lot for the thoughtful listener to consider after the melodies fade.
My Wasted Friends
Hip Hop Thighs