Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Brad Heller and The Fustics
Beyond This Life

Brad Heller and The Fustics make music that radiates from an earnest, and honest, place in the heart. If Heller isn’t singing songs that echo a good time he’s painting pictures of life many can identify with. The singer’s heart-on-the-sleeve style is wrought with people he’s met during a life of travels and influences ranging from Son Volt to Woody Guthrie or Bruce Springsteen.
Beyond This Life is a mix of friendly rockers for the bar crowd and laments on the common man’s life and struggles – from relationships to the war overseas. Energy levels rise and fall throughout - the title track shares a punk-blues feel to it and “Bloodstained Streets” has a college funk vibe, recalling Dillon Fence with a New Orleans Zydeco feel. “Brothers” is Heller alone with a guitar, spare and brooding. “I’ll Walk with You” is radio-ready, a jumping song with a catchy melody and a fiery saxophone solo. Piano player Mark Schomaker adds another layer to the mix, adding carnival atmosphere to some songs.
Heller has an everyman quality to his vocals – warm and rustic which adds depth to the more intimate songs. Barren and ghostly images are evoked in Heller’s music, like the beautifully brooding “Western Skyline” where he sings “I can almost feel the arid wind choke my lungs” against faint acoustic guitar strumming and harmonica playing. It’s a vivid song, a memorable track born from train rides and Midwest atmosphere. The train imagery recalls explorers during America’s growth spurt, when travel was done on foot and horseback. Much of the songwriting is road inspired and Beyond This Life strongly sounds like Middle America rock. Other times it’s spare and tempered; the whole moving along like revolving energy. Its earthy tenacity shares a kindred spirit with the common man. But for all its up-tempo energy Beyond This Life finds gold in slower songs, those that deliver more with restraint and introspection. If music is about the translation of experience then The Fustics’ new album delivers.

-Brian Tucker

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