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Writing a blog is mostly a solitary endeavor. So it’s nice when people write to say they are enjoying what I’m posting and even better when they get a conversation going about our mutual musical loves. Some even make great suggestions about tunes I should check out. Like Ralph. He wrote with a list of suggested artists and songs so good I thought it warranted a post all its own. Some of the artists I was familiar with but not the songs (like Bruce Foxton) while others were completely new to me (like The Ruen Brothers). From a long list of choices from Ralph I’ve picked out the ones that really grabbed me, so this is very much a collaborate effort.

Was there ever an act that sounded more American than The Ruen Brothers? The band, actual brothers, hail from a small town a little north east of Sheffield in northern England. But somehow through the magic of Dad’s record collection, they come off like Nashville or Lubbock rockabilly locals. Their 2018 debut All My Shades of Blue, produced by Rick Rubin, is an amazing distillation of influences both old and new. My personal fave is “Vendetta” with its cool “Secret Agent Man” vibe and punk rock Roy Orbison vocals. To see them touring with Orville Peck makes a lot of sense, two acts that draw from the past but refuse to simply dwell there. Bruce Foxton had a glorious past as bassist for The Jam but struggled to find a future after they broke up. A 1984 solo album barely dented the charts so Foxton spent most of the next decade and half playing with Stiff Little Fingers. But in 2012 he returned with a second solo album, Back in the Room, which contained strong material like the hooky “Coming On Strong.” A band I didn’t even know had made a comeback are The Long Ryders. Early Americana and alt country influencers, the band hadn’t released an album since 1987. Nevertheless, a new record emerged in 2019, the aptly-named Psychedelic Country Soul, and critics declared it a winner with radio-friendly tracks like “Greenville.” Personally I love the heavenly wash of background harmonies cushioning “Let It Fly.”

The Ruen Brothers – VendettaBruce Foxton – Coming On Strong

A band I somehow missed altogether was Ocean Colour Scene, despite the fact they had five top 10 albums and 17 top 40 singles in the UK, with six songs that made the top 10. Initially associated with the Madchester Britpop scene, the band toured with Paul Weller and Oasis, eventually becoming big stars in their own right. With a lot of material to choose from, my focus on “I Told You So” might seem curious, given both the song and its 2007 album On the Leyline charted poorly. Still, I think it’s a winner. I love the Cat Stevens “There Goes My Baby” lilt to the tune and its overall cheery demeanor. Brandt Huseman is a busy guy, active in at least four bands by my count. I love his work with Greenberry Woods and Splitsville but I was less familiar with The Pale Stars, an outfit he produced two albums with. The band’s self-titled debut has that 1980s alt western vibe – think True West or Rank and File – and it comes out nicely on “Turncoat.” Another band on the comeback trail is The Old 97s whose 2020 release is simply called Twelve. Now, in truth, the band and its frontman Rhett Miller never really went away. Perhaps that’s why “Turn Off the TV” is like hanging with old friends, a familiar fun time that could easily descend into a group sing-along. And check out the cool cameo appearance from Puddles Pity Party at the end of the video.

The Pale Stars – Turncoat

Ralph picked out some real winners that totally suited what I do with Poprock Record making it easy to write them up for a post. Register your take on these choices by clicking on the band names to check out what they’re doing.

Banner photo courtesy Larry Gordon.