Album Review – Pennyroyal – Baby I’m Against It

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By Becca Martin

“ A little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll”- I never thought that I would quote that but it is true.  Pennyroyal plays music that makes you want to tap your feet.  This is a band on the rise. “Baby I’m Against It” is exceptional.  It is their second release and was produced/engineered by the talented Ed Ackerson at Flower Studios in Minneapolis.  Ed is well known for BNLX & Polara and just recently produced The “Songs for Slim” project. Pennyroyal’s sound is robust with a purity of form and function in it.  Elements of alt country are heard with a soul of rock and roll.

As I listened a storyline seemed to develop that followed a young woman as she discovered the strength to do it on her own.  There will be struggles, it might be lonely at times but damn it she will wade through it.  It brought to mind the reality that Ethan Rutherford who is songwriting partner to Angie Oase and co-vocalist on the album now lives in Ohio as an accomplished writer.  His presence on the album is heard in a sparse voice with an Americana tilt.  The reality is that with Ethan  living away Angie has had to take the reins and front the band.  Admittedly shy, she would still like to sing with her eyes closed so that she could “hear the music better”.  Angie has an unforced presence and a self-deprecating humor.  There is a genuine air of innocence to her-a vulnerability that shines in her unique inflection. But, then she cranks it up and belts it out. I can’t help but think of a mix of early Aimee Mann, Patsy Cline, & Pat Benatar.

Growing up in “NoDak” with only AM oldies on the local stations Oase was influenced by the classics: “Hank, Patsy, Frank, Johnny”.  Angie’s true music love came by later in her 20’s-Dylan.  With Miss Oase it is not glam and posturing-what you see is what you get-a rarity in this business.  What I have seen with this band is that they are doing what they like to do in a straightforward manner. I am not saying in any way that they are plain or boring quite the opposite.  Onstage they rock even more.

Angie and Ethan.  This is a story that beats all.  One day Ethan walks into a coffee shop and hears one of his own unpublished songs being sung…by Angie.  Fate whatever…it happened.  A great rock and roll story of kismet.

Ethan comes here by way of WA state and loves good ole’ “one, two-fuck you” style rock.  A fan of the Velvet Underground, War on Drugs, and Neil Young in Crazyhorse…Ethan sums it up well: “if a band plays one or two chord songs, repetitively and with a fair amount of feedback, and are pretty loud, I probably like them”… “One of the things I think makes this band unique is that we all approach the songs from completely different musical arenas, and I think that’s taken our songs to some unexpected places.  Flip side of that I think we all have a soft spot for the Beach Boys, the Carpenters, Bob Dylan etc and so there’s some common ground”.

Rutherford goes on to hit on the fact that the band members are well trained and that his preferred “wall of noise” generally gets “outvoted, and quality songwriting (with bridges, recognizable bass lines, and danceable beats) wins out”.  Ethan touches on something there-musical training, Angie has a music degree from Macalester-where both Ethan and Jake the drummer for Pennyroyal has taught. Oase took lessons in 12 string and classical guitar as well as playing stand up bass and cello for over a decade.  There is a connection of their music tastes in that Angie spent time loving the punk squatter music scene in N.D. (yep, they had one) and Ethan is a Dylan fan.  Those influences tossed together with country thrown into the mix are the recipe for Pennyroyal.  With great lyrics and catchy music overall Pennyroyal is a band to watch.

The opening song of the album: “M List” has a rousing beat and a guitar lick that has rockabilly flair in the chorus. Angie’s vocals soar in a confident but plaintive manner.  I wouldn’t change a thing and it was even better live.  “Crossing Bridges” I found lovely and touching in a yearning way and I am a sucker for the line “crossing bridges haven’t come to”. These are the vocals that remind me of a young Aimee Mann.  A great single to be sure.  “Go quiet” is a contemplative ballad where the guitar and bass line drive the song. Favorite bass line on the album. A more poppy and radio station friendly song is “Record Machine”.  I was unsure of the bongos at first but with a more objective listen found they fit well.  Love the line “these bills they don’t own me I only need these dreams”-every artist’s anthem.  The song that differed from the rest of the album was “Dallas”. Ethan’s vocals lend it an earthier and rougher sound.  “Pennyroyal” is a favorite for being up-tempo and a real head bobber.  Who doesn’t love a song that mentions Minneapolis?  “The most difficult song to bring to the album was “Did you really mean it”.  Perhaps the most vulnerable song and perfect for that last kiss goodbye.  The lyrics lay it out bare and unprotected.

I love “Baby I’m Against It” and want you to buy it and listen to it.  Just be sure to go out and see Pennyroyal play.  They are fantastic live-Angie’s vocals are harder and more driven.  Pennyroyal isn’t a studio band at all, its’ members are proficient and together a tour de force.  They are generating quite a buzz and will go far.

Pennyroyal is:

Angie Oase, Ethan Rutherford, Jake Mohan, Bill Hoben, & Brian Cameron

Album release at Icehouse November 19 with MN expat singer-songwriter extraordinaire Scott Laurent returning from Nashville for this special show.

www.facebook.com/lovepennyroyal
www.pennyroyal.us

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