Review: Back Porch Mary "Life Is Now"

The indie troubadours that make up the melodic "power-tonk" group Back Porch Mary have much to be proud of. Without ever gracing the racks of even one record store, the group has managed to sell an impressive combined 50,000 units. Indeed, the fact that these country boys manage to thrive in the Austin, Texas music scene is just another reason that "Life Is Now" for Back Porch Mary.
The back cover of "Life Is Now" proudly notes that Mike, Joe and Ryan (no last names) are the group members, and their sound can best be described as Barenaked Ladies meets Reckless Kelly. If there is any doubt, this is a major compliment indeed.

The album begins with the melodic "No Bad News Today," which has an insanely memorable chorus that is even more impressive because most songs were written by Mike Krug. His lyrics sparkle, and Krug also knows how to write a hook. In fact, the band's self-described "power tonk" does offer some similarities in melody and lyrics to popular power punk/power pop bands. However, Back Porch Mary presents its music in a retro-Americana style that works.

The second track titled "Fast Car" is certainly not a cover of the Tracy Chapman song of the same name. This song is a feel-good, radio-ready cut that would be a welcome addition to any Friday afternoon radio playlist. Men and women across American should get ready for the weekend by hearing "Fast Car."

"Monty's Song" offers a more familiar Red Dirt sound, and "I'm A Soldier" has an interesting Chris Knight meets Wade Bowen vibe. "Drove Her To Drinkin'" covers classic country music ground in a fresh way. But the biggest surprise is the subtle "Next To You," which is a tender, bluegrass-tinged love song. "Next To You" is the best song on the album by a mile, and the laid-back vocal performance could warm the coldest of hearts. The instrumentation is perfectly produced, and Americana radio program directors should add "Next To You" immediately. "Dry Here In This Town" has much of the same charm, but the cut might have had more of an impact without the harmonic collaboration.

"You Don't Know About Me" offers a terrific punk-influenced vocal performance with a memorable chorus and a superb guitar solo. The album ends with the hard-driving "The Vegas Song," which is performed at a head-spinning pace. Surprisingly, it works. Vegas, anyone?

"Life Is Now" is so chock full of surprises that you will actually want to skip going to Vegas and attend a Back Porch Mary concert in Austin instead. Indeed, the evidence presented here indicates that Mike, Joe and Ryan are a little bit crazy and a whole lot talented. For now, we'll just call the boys of Back Porch Mary "crazy talented."

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