For those who try to keep up with our local music scene, this band is swiftly finding its way into the collective consciousness of the Arkansas River Valley and surrounding areas. If you happen to be casual in your approach to seeking out new music entertainment it's quite possible you are probably starting to hear about ".357". If you are lucky to have the time to keep up with the weekly shows and visit the region's many live entertainment venues, you have most likely caught this band live or you will in the very near future. ".357" has an interesting history and a great story to tell, which I am going to save most of for the full article I am planning to write release on RiverValleyLive.com in the very near future. ".357" is comprised of three brothers. The "front man" on lead vocals and guitar is Austin, 21. The foundation of this group is built on the beats of 16 year old Tate, on drums. All these groovy bass lines you will hear flowing like a river winding its way to the ocean are coming from bassist, Eric who is also 16 years old.
I would guess that this trio has put in almost as much hard work, time, and effort into honing their craft and skills than most guys their age have put into getting OUT of hard work, finding ways to waste time, and doing so with as little effort on their part as possible. Some differences between the two groups in my opinion are these: one group of guys will never make it away from their bedroom mirrors where they spend their time posing and taking "selfies" while holding their out of tune guitars which they have yet to learn a single chord. The other group is playing on concert stages representing a new generation of local talent and are preparing themselves to be in a position to be touring with bands these "selfies-boys" try and emulate on their Facebook and Twitter accounts. This band has been paying their dues and are now earning the spotlight that is slowly being turned in their direction. The youth are here to challenge the "status quo", often without even knowing it. The establishment feels the challenge when the new generation confidently takes the stage and unleashes their influences and new interpretations of the pop, funk, blues, and rock in roll that their predecessors had once been the challengers to those that came before them.
The guys in ".357" are being rewarded for their hard work and practice with every new gig that is offered, by every live music venue, music festival, and concert stage that has a booking agent worth a damn.The father of the young men, Nathan Ward, serves as manager, booking agent, promoter, driver and the encourager of all things that Nathan might say, "Rock on!". As Manager, Nathan brings some extra firepower to the already, well-stocked arsenal known as, ".357". He leads by example as a supportive father who has the best interests of the group as priority number one. The strong work ethic instilled in his sons can be seen by the respect shown to each other as they interact both on the family and professional level. Having been brought up in a household with an entrepreneurial mindset and a strong work ethic, .357 has built good working relationships with those who are booking for the local venues and also have some excellent examples to follow of local musicians who have learned to earn a living playing steady gigs and working in our local music industry.
The guys in .357 have a map of success laid in front of them and all they need to do is find their own pathway through the, "glory-free, thankless, bloody, trenches", known as the music scene. This is an exciting and shady world where young bands are bombarded with more than their fair share of free gigs, always guaranteed to bring "worldwide exposure and instant fame". We can't forget the promoters and venue owners who will try and pay bands $50 instead of the $500 they were promised. You know, because they used the venue's electricity, drank from the water fountain, and flushed the toilet after having the nerve to use the toilet paper that is typically only used as a "Torture Display" for those inflicted with IBS.
So introducing the first release from the guys in ".357", a 6-song CD, simply titled, ".357 Live". The track list and album credits are listed here with my thoughts on each song.
1. New Blues
2. Stone Cold Heart
4. Chasing You
(All songs written and arranged by, Austin aka, "Bubba" on Vocals/Guitar, Tate aka, "Boo" on Drums and Eric aka, "Bear" on Bass. ".357 Live" was recorded live at Wishbone's in Fort Smith, AR in December of 2016. CD Recorded, Engineered and mixed by Dillon Taylor, DMX Studios, Fort Smith, AR. Band Manager, Nathan Ward)
"For us, going back to the basics always puts life in perspective."-Nathan Ward
"New Blues" kicks off this first offering of material with the steady chopping of a power chord from Austin on guitar, followed by Eric on bass and quickly joined by Tate on drums. The song has a short, but shaky moment at the beginning just to let you know this is a live recording. This is short-lived as each member recovers quickly and finds their bearings for this introductory climax. The beginning might be slightly derivative of Hendrix on, "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" but quickly channels a blues riff you may remind you of some early 70's FM radio. At the age of 21 on vocals and guitar, Austin has developed a mature voice and brings the goods to the stage by singlehandedly pulling off the guitar and vocals better than a good percentage of experienced musicians twice his age. Eric and Tate are not to be dismissed as being "just" the rhythm section; because they have built this band on solid ground and an early shake-up doesn't crack their foundation.
"Stone Cold Heart" is the second track on this disc and it shows off the versatility and hard work this band has put into creating their sound. This song begins with a standard, funky, blues groove and carries on with more of those "blues riffs, that surely must of have been a required listening assignment from early on in the musical education during the class, ".357 101: The Basics of a Rock Band." This tune shows off the solid foundation that Eric and Tate have built for Austin to play his guitar solos over the top of with no worries about the rhythm section losing the groove or beat.
"Floating" drips slowly and smoothly like maple syrup on pancakes. It has one of those mesmerizing vocals and a heavily chorused guitar lick that makes me think I should "put some whiskey in my water", lay with some grass, stare at the clouds and do nothing but think back to when life was easier and there were less problems to worry about. The lyric asking the question, "Can you see the sound", adds a psychedelic overtone that might take you flashing back to a beautiful, carefree, spring afternoon that one might expect when choosing to hop in the sky and go floating on the clouds. Even with the syrupy guitar and slightly trippy lyrics, what really seems to keep this song moving is Eric showing off his solid skills and ability to keep the funk alive on the bass throughout this entire song.
"There are no smoke and mirrors with this album and I think that's what I love about it most".-Austin
"Chasing You" chimes in with a riff that Matthew Followill may have toyed around with on the, "Because of the Times" recording sessions. The "Kings of Leon" influence is heavy on this track. Starting with the delayed, reverb-heavy, guitar and continuing through to the country-punk break down in the middle. Austin's vocals are what stand out on this track, for me. He is able to keep the song off the B-side by singing a melody that takes you away from thinking you are listening to the band mentioned earlier in this paragraph.
"Mountains" comes out of my headphones and I feel like a new band has stepped onstage. I almost expected to see a spotlight come on in the corner of my dark bedroom that would highlight Tony Iommi showing Austin a riff for a new Black Sabbath song. But once again Eric's bass playing brings the funk back to this heavy opening. Austin displays his vocal abilities once again on this tune. Steve Miller would be proud of the lead vocals and harmonies on this song. The band singing "Over the mountains and through the woods, you never know, you never know, you never know where that wind will blow." This band may be in their late teens/early twenties but they have got their funk and groove down perfectly on this song. The only disappointment in this song is that I didn't get anymore of the heaviness that the intro had teased me with. It seems to have disappeared into that blowing wind never to be seen again.
"Joke" the final track we get to hear from this live session is the newest song from the band. I believe this may have been the first time they played the song live, if not, it hadn't been performed very often at the time of recording. "Joke" closes with all the good things .357 has going for them. It's got the solid rhythm and beat with the constant groove coming from Tate and Eric. The guitar has the full, blues-funk, heavily chorused up guitar from Austin. The lead vocals and harmonies pulled off while recording this song live aren't achieved without the solidly constructed foundation that has been laid solid by the years of hard work and practice to which this band has dedicated themselves.
"We are so stoked to finally have a product we can put in people's hands. We were in need of good representation of our true, raw, sound and we think doing the CD live, helped get that out? "-Austin, Eric, and Tate of ".357"
I give ".357 Live" a rating of 6.5 out of a 10
Why did I give this effort a rating that seems to in the low range? Personally, I like this band a lot. Watching one gig will show you how much blood, sweat and tears have gone into their set. The band is tight and is closer to perfection than some bands and musicians more than twice their age with twice the experience can pull off. The recording quality is good, especially for a live recording done locally. But, I am not giving a review of the ages of the members or the clean sound of the recording. I am reviewing the contents of this CD.
To me, much of the album is derivative of bands the guys are obviously influenced by and have taken many cues from. You can hear it from the start of the first track to the end of the final track. A lot of bands have done this, especially on first releases. It is almost impossible to keep the songs and bands you have listened to for your entire life out of the equation when you are in the start-up phase of your songwriting career.
The lyrical content is quite vague and doesn't really give you an idea of who the songwriter is or what they are personally thinking or experiencing. What small time I have spent around the band, I can see that they have the potential for upping the ante and stepping out of their comfort zone at some point. My advice is don't fall into the trap of trying to write songs that you think the audience wants to hear or that you think might be catchy. Write about the things you know and have experienced. ".357" has everything in the arsenal needed to put out some stellar music with a voice and character unique to the band.
I wanted to give the band a higher rating on this CD, but I am comparing it to all of the music I have experienced in my lifetime. There are very few 10 ratings floating around in each of our music catalogues. I love lots of albums, but there are only a few of those works that have grabbed me by my soul and pulled me in so far that I no longer know if the album is me or I am the album. Great artists and songwriters spend entire lifetimes trying to write one album that can pull in a large audience in that way. Some put out 10 albums of that caliber at certain points in their career and can then never make another album that captures their audience like those albums did ever again.
My final thoughts…this CD is a good listen and the recording is of high quality…the band is amazing and you should go see them live, you will not be disappointed….I recommend buying a copy of this CD because it gives us hint of the bright light hiding just beneath the surface of this band.
Austin, Eric, Tate….thanks for giving me the opportunity to listen to your work and for opening yourselves up to a review. All of you have bright futures ahead if you stick to your guns and always put out the music that makes you happy. I'm just a guy writing my opinions and posting them online. Any criticism come out of respect for how far you have come in such a short time and for the potential I see in you to put out some of the best recorded music to ever come out of the Arkansas River Valley Region. I look forward to future recordings and any gigs I can make my way to!
So, "Rock on, I say! Rock on!"
To learn more about .357, CLICK HERE