Thursday, July 12, 2018

Review: "Tales From PA 6" by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander

One of the new albums we are featuring this month is Tales From PA 6, by Tom Flannery and Bret Alexander.

Back in 2016, the duo released their first venture together, Dupont Back Porches. That album was spontaneous, quickly produced and recorded. It was raw, emotional and actually felt as if it were recorded on a porch and you were there for the making of it.

Tales From PA 6 sounds different. It is more polished. It is more thoughtful. It feels like these two have been playing together for years, actually. Their voices compliment each other and nicely underscore the stories they tell.

The title of the album is a reference to a road running through northeastern Pennsylvania, where they both live. The idea was to construct an album telling stories that may have occurred along that road. I have never been on that road, as far as I know. I have only been to the region once. But location does not matter here. We all have roads like this running near our homes, all pointed in the same direction.

The stories they tell are universal and articulate; powerful ruminations on life, family, love and death.  Working class values run deeply in each track, and the current political climate boils ever so slightly under the surface and actually explodes full-force in the last track, entitled "A Greater Generation." This track was inspired by the students from Parkland, forcing the nation to confront some ugly truths about life in America. "A greater generation waits," they sing. "To kick these bastards out."

That song is a powerful, hopeful reminder that where we are now is not necessarily where we will end up. It is a great bookend to an album that begins with the somber, but emotionally charged anthem "I Ain't Gonna Grow Old in this Place Anymore."

Spin the bottle..wiffle ball...catching fireflies 
while Daddy takes a powder and never says goodbye 
Ten jobs in 4 years and the bank closing in 
just a picture in a scrap-book now...a casualty of sin 
My mother working double shifts out at the Wal-Mart store 
well I ain't gonna grow old in this place anymore 

In between those two songs are stories about people and families you may have met along your road. "Amantha Ray" tells the story of someone who got up and left, leaving friends and lovers, "looking for something and ain't found it yet."  Likewise, "Morning Eyes" tells the story of someone wanting to leave, but can't:

When the head says run and the heart says stay 
it's time to find a bottle and look the other way 
Gotta burn it down to save it….toss the embers in the air 
Act like all this is normal….and like we do not care  

"As Good a Choice as Anyone" is about taking chances and not giving up, no matter how easy that choice would be:

You want to scream but it doesn’t make sense 
To waste your words in your own defense 
And you’re told to embrace the thing you hate 
Because good things come to those who wait 

Don’t give up 
A change is gonna come 
Don’t give up 
I can feel it rustling in the wind 
Take my hand 
We’ll go wandering through the dark 
We’re as good a choice as anyone 
To find the light again 

One of my favorite tracks is "Rolling On," again featuring both Flannery and Alexander, belting out an alternating chorus about "growing up" and "growing old" and featuring a plethora of characters who are familiar to each and everyone one of us; again highlighting the universal nature of these stories:

Every other Christmas / you try to make it home 
Trying to recognize the faces / that they send you on their phones 
Heads hung heavy / in the morning light 
The same empty bottles / and the same old fight 
Uber to the airport / and you fall into the bar 
Wondering how you managed / to even get this far 
All their eyes like slits / only open on a dare 
Looking for their love / not their thoughts and prayers 
But you’re rolling on...rolling in / Chasing away the childhood sin 
Growing up growing old / Tired of doing what you’re told

Tales from PA 6 is an exceptional album of rock-driven acoustic story-telling  It is clear that music is a passion that consumes them both. As a result, the songs in Tales from PA 6  are thoughtful, mature and empathetic stories that have a familiarity that rings true no matter what road you are on.


You can listen to the whole album below and purchase it here by naming your own price.

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