Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 9:49 a.m.
Hard Luck Stories (Rock Ridge Music)
If you took the Pogues and multiplied them by the Clash, then divided by Dylan the result would be Ike Reilly. Over the past decade, he's quietly amassed one of the most raucous and literate catalogues in rock and roll. His peculiar genius is best captured on songs such as "The War on the Terror and the Drugs," a bluesy shuffle in which he teams up with Shooter Jennings to warp our prevailing national paranoia into a sublime hootenanny.
"Lights Out Anything Goes" is a gimlet-eyed celebration of the coming economic end times, driven by vintage Wurlitzer. The same infectious anxiety fuels "Good Work (If You Can Get It)," on which Reilly enlists the choir of his hometown Libertyville High School for the chorus. He even manages to tame his raspy tenor on the delicate and wrenching love ballad, "The Golden Corner."
Reilly is that rare breed of rocker, the kind of guy who dares to make intelligent, tuneful music while remaining loyal to the needs of the pub crowd. Hard Luck Stories is a blisteringly good record that documents what becomes of a nation when its citizens can no longer distinguish between the "saviors and the fakers."
-- Steve Almond