On this past Saturday’s show, my very special guest was Bradley Skaught of Oakland, California-based The Bye Bye Blackbirds. It had been a few years since I had him on one of my radio shows, and with the release of their recent album, Boxer at Rest, it was time for another visit.
This album was long-anticipated. Apparently, not just by we fans, but by the band itself. It took a while for this one to see the light of day. The album was written and ready to record, when founding member Lenny Gill fell ill, literally getting a heart transplant. The rest of the band carried on, and recorded everything but Lenny’s guitar parts, and left room for them. Then, they set it aside for the better part of a year, until Lenny’s recovery, when he felt strong enough to record all his guitar parts. In. One. Day. Talk about sheer determination. This band is tough and tight, no matter what.
So what does the music itself sound like? Upbeat, driving rockers, which bely the sometimes heartbreaking lyrics and themes. The opening track, You Were All Light, sets the stage for the entire album, serving notice that the band is back, the boxer is no longer at rest, rock is about to happen. Great guitar interplay, thumping drums and pulsing bass, with very tasteful bursts from the horn section, Bradley’s vocals strong as ever, with great rising harmony vocals to build up the sound. This song soars, and if you end up reading the lyric sheet, you might get a lump in your throat. And this is just track one. Americana meets power pop, with a dash of Memphis Stax soul. The whole album follows like this. Another standout is the cathartic penultimate cut, If It Gets Light. It’s long, at 7:42, long enough for a radio DJ’s bathroom break, as Bradley jokingly suggests during the interview, but it doesn’t feel that long at all. This is where the electric guitar interplay really shines. It’s loud and hypnotic, and Bradley’s and Lenny’s playing interlocks. Again, Lenny added his part later, but I can’t wait for this pandemic and quarantining to be over, so I can get myself over to the Bay Area, and watch these guys play an extended version of this one live.
The Bye Bye Blackbirds are Bradley Skaught, Lenny Gill, Aaron Rubin, Joe Becker, KC Bowman (a longtime Twirl and Woody Radio favorite), and Kelly Atkins.
Boxer at Rest is a triumph. You kind of need this one. Find it at https://thebyebyeblackbirds.bandcamp.com/album/boxer-at-rest
Enjoy the show.