The last time I saw Coley Kennedy was in August of last year. I was at Empty Bottle watching his band Welcome To Ashley perform so I could review the show for my old writing job. I was blown away by the power and magnetism of Kennedy on stage, and I was looking forward to seeing the band over and over. That dream was shattered about six months later when I learned that the band had decided to take a break for a while. Coley continued on with fellow WTA members Jeremy Barrett and Pete Javier (not credited on the record, but performing at Double Door) and hooked up with Nashville band Pale Blue Dot to form The Buddies.
This headlining spot at Double Door acted as the band’s record release show for their debut self-titled album. I’ve had a copy of this for some time now, and I’ve listened to it off and on leading up to a bunch of spins in the days before the show, and the thing that surprised me most is how dissimilar to Welcome To Ashley it sounds. Lyrically Kennedy touches on a lot of the same themes, but musically it’s a complete 180, hitting varied genres like bluegrass, country, glam rock, and punk. Most of that is due to Justin and Scott Collins, the guitar playing brothers from Pale Blue Dot.
Initially when I saw two guitarists plus Pete, I thought it was going to be a bit tough to appease everyone on stage, but they did a really great job of switching off back and forth between rhythm and lead, often each playing multiple parts in the same song. Of the three, I think Justin came out with the best licks (at least I think it’s Justin-the one that looks like a young Eric Roberts UPDATE: This has been confirmed). His straight-ahead, no bullshit approach to guitar playing was refreshing and he was also able to provide some great backing vocals.
Also proving quite good was Kim Collins on drums and also accordion. Her percussion was fantastic all night with a blasting kick drum that kept everyone in step. The only problem I had with her performance was that her vocals were completely drowned out. I could see her mouth moving, but I couldn’t hear her at all. Not her fault, of course. I find the accordion to be a most confusing instrument, and one difficult to learn. She played it very well on the couple songs that needed it, and at the end she did prove that she has a good voice as she took a solo that made the room swoon.
And then there’s Coley…a man who seems to be more comfortable on stage than off. If you read my review of the WTA show that I went to, you know that he’s a bolt of lightning up there. He came out in a fitting Replacements shirt under his blazer, which he somehow managed to wear the whole show even though I’m sure it was soaked with sweat. I like guys like Coley who just go balls out for the entire length of a show. It’s impressive for a couple reasons, the biggest being he’s the lead singer. He’s got to remember all the lyrics to every song while flailing around the stage like a madman. It was nice to see him in his element again.
Highlights from the show for me were the songs “Let’s Get Happy,” “Kathleen, Please Come Home,” and “The Admiral.” This is personal preference, of course, but I thought that of the songs on the record, these were the most representative of the sound during the show. For the final song everyone came up and they sang the song “I’m A Man You Don’t Meet Everyday,” which reminds me of a Irish folk ballad, in perfect harmony. It was a great finale to an awesome set.
After the show I went to say goodbye to Coley and he was telling me how hard it is to describe the sound that The Buddies achieve to people who ask what kind of music they play. That’s true. It’s a difficult thing to put into words. You know how Springsteen manages to bring Woody Guthrie and Sam and Dave together somehow? It isn’t exactly like that, but it’s a hybrid of many things that come together to create a almost southern rock version of The Clash. It really is hard to explain.
Another thing I learned from our brief discussion is that the band doesn’t rehearse. Coley lives up here in Chicago and the Collins’ live in Nashville, so the lyrics are written and then sent to the rest of the band to put music to. It sounds kind of crazy, but Coley told me he feels like this groups chemistry is off the charts. I have to agree with him. I think you’ll agree, too, if you give it a shot. Download the self-titled record here.