Black Label Summer
The Rise & Fall of Josh Hall
There’s a strange but fitting twang to Black Label Summer frontman Josh Hall, known mostly for his Thunderhawk records and PBR loyalty. Maybe it’s the Fu Manchu stash he sometimes wears or the whiskey and heartache he so often sings about. Mostly, he’s an indie rock dude from Philly who has been trapped in the Midwest for 12 years – and now it’s showing. When Hall released Black Label Summer’s debut album, Dirty All-Star Band, last year Thunderhawk fans were surprised by how convincingly he shifted styles. Not only did most ears seem to love Dirty, but many quickly considered it to be his best work yet. Once Hall himself caught wind of such reaction he joked, “That’s so lame. Well, I guess I’ll do another one of those albums then.”
And so now, only months after the release of Hall’s Simple Twist of Hate (credited to Stun Guzzler) and Vodka Hysteria (credited to Thunderhawk) albums (plus the national release of Thunderhawk VI), Hall is releasing The Rise and Fall of Josh Hall, his second twangy studio effort. Described by Hall himself as “a drunker, mouthier Old 97’s,” Black Label Summer play … well … drunk and mouthy alt-country. The songs talk about guns and girls and drink and drugs. While Dirty did sound quite a bit like the 97’s classic Too Far to Care, Rise doesn’t. It’s twangy and mouthy and drunk but also quietly sweet and personal, at least when compared to Hall’s non-BLS work. For example, Hall sings about a tender moment he shared with “Jay, who’s my best friend,” when he told said friend about a girl who tried to get him in bed. Seconds later, when Hall sings “Tell me that you love me / Why the hell did you go” about another girl, you can almost smell the whiskey and pain through your speakers. He may curse this Black Label stuff, but it all seems strangely therapeutic.
Instant standout “The Fifth of July” is the new Hall classic, full of all the BLS trademarks – swear words, agony, twang, dreaming, etc. A dash of Hall’s trademark humor even shows up as he sings “I could text you goodbye” without a wink or nudge.
On “Backwards Smile” Hall is suddenly transformed into a pretty convincing drug dealer who is broke and longing. In the song (like any good country singer) Hall washes the sheets and throws the bottles away before he begs the night’s lady to come over. He smiles backwards because he “can’t grow up / can’t act my age.” Is Hall serious when he twangs on about being a hard-living manchild? Who knows? Who cares? He’s certainly convincing in the role.
Another standout, titled “Elouise (Funeral Procession),” shows Hall spreading his wings, trying something new. Damn. It works. Hall croons over an arrangement that sounds, yep, like a country-time funeral procession. While most of the album chugs along, “Elouise” slows things down, displaying the songwriter’s diversity and range as a musician and arranger. If you don’t already know this, he plays, records, pens and sings all this stuff himself. In an apartment. Probably late at night and certainly buzzed. Maybe a little mad too. He makes a few records a year, and none of them sound too much like the last.
“Army Ghost” sounds like a cousin to Stephen Malkmus’ “Mama,” and “The Rise” sounds – more than anything else on Rise – like it could be right off of the Dirty album, opening almost exactly like “I’d Still Burn.” Every song here works very well (even if some take a few listens to reveal themselves), save for closer “33:00,” which works as something of an homage to Paul Westerberg’s great 49:00 album. For “33:00” Hall presents a handful of songs sliced up into pieces and mixed together into one long track with moments of static between cuts. Hall’s 10-minute effort to emulate the flipping through radio station channels is impressive but doesn’t offer the magic of the Westerberg release, which worked as an over-stuffed collage from a man with a couple hundred unreleased gems he was dying to share. Hall’s track is a disappointment, but only because I believe most would rather just hear the songs he teases us with.
Is The Rise and Fall of Josh Hall as good as Dirty All-Star Band? Hmm. I don’t know that its high points quite reach the levels of “Teenage Riot FanClub,” “Liver Let Die,” “I’d Still Burn” and “Spark,” but many songs come very close.
Maybe more importantly, Rise is more consistent than Dirty – a near perfect front-to-back listen, save for the tease-filled “33:00.” This second twangy offering from Indiana’s most prolific songwriter is another big winner, made perfect for the upcoming fall season.
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Tessa Lark w/Peter Klimo — Classical at Arts Place, Portland, 7:30 p.m., $8-$18, 726-4809
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at 469 Sports & Spirits, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 749-7207
Open Jam — Hosted by G-Money at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Variety at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
41st High School Exhibition — Student art from Great Lakes region high schools, daily thru March 19, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
An Exploration of Perspective — Multimedia works by Deborah Robinson Miller, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild March Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru March 31, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday, March 5-April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Liberations of Line & Matter — Digital works by Adam Meyer, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Maurice Keltsch Art Collection — Works from the collection of the late pharmacist and patron of Fort Wayne arts, daily thru March 19 , Goldfish Gallery, Rolland Arts Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-8064
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26 , Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Overlapping in the Proximity of the Sublime — Works by Ashley Beatty, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
Semantic Sequences — Exhibition of letterpress prints by Stephanie Carpenter, assistant director of the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, Tuesday-Sunday thru March 24, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Student Highlights Exhibition: 3D — Works from students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts’ 3D studio art program, daily thru March 19, John P. Weatherhead Gallery and Goldfish Gallery, Mimi and Ian Rolland Art and Visual Communication Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Tim Brumbeloe Retrospective — A retrospective of local photographer’s works over the past 25 years, Monday-Friday thru March 17, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Artlink Educational Programs — Art classes offered by Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, dates and times vary, Artlink, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-7195
Fort Wayne Dance Collective Workshops — Workshops and classes for movement, dance, yoga and more offered by Fort Wayne Dance Collective, dates and times vary, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Fort Wayne, fees vary, 424-6574
IPFW Community Arts Academy— Art, dance, music and theater classes for grades pre-K through 12 offered by IPFW College of Visual and Performing Arts, fees vary, 481-6977, www.ipfw.edu/caa
Sweetwater Academy of Music — Private lessons for a variety of instruments available from professional instructors, ongoing weekly lessons, Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne, call for pricing, 432-8176, academy.sweetwater.com
Tincture Trivia — Trivia night for teams of 4 or 6 people, 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays, Nick’s Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, free, 482-6425
Watercolor Instruction — Artist Tom De Somer of De Somer Fine Art Studio offers watercolor painting instruction 6:30-8:30 p.m. the first four Thursdays of each month, Indiana Wesleyan University, Fort Wayne, $144/four-week course, 805-328-8336, www.desomerart.com/classes