"Stay Positive" (Vagrant; 2008)

Reviewed by Jeff Rogers

This outfit is part rock, part punk and a whole lot of story telling. The vocals remind me of Mike Ness from Social Distortion. The Hold Steady's Craig Finn doesn't have the same gruff all the time but he does growl out some grit when he wants to put his lyrics on crescendo.

The music is full of strings, horns and some piano, there is guitar on all the cuts and sometimes its the main instrument. When you hear a great riff, expect it to stay there for a while. There are a few layers to each song and with the great lyrics its a brain full of interesting stuff.

There is a religious element on a couple of songs. "Lord, I'm Discouraged" talks about a girl who needs help to fight her demons but nothing seems to work. It's got a soulful sound and a sweet solo to punch home the lyrics of despair. "Both Crosses" is a story about Mary, Jesus and Judas. Sometimes a little bit of Bob Seger comes through the speakers and, with the sound of piano, guitar and Craig's voice, its a familiar sound.

The Hold Steady: Bobby Drake drums; Craig Finn guitar, vocals; Tad Kubler lead guitar; Franz Nicolay keyboards, accordion, harmonica; Galen Polivka bass guitar.

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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