Old Man Markley – Down Side Up

  • Dustin Blumhagen posted
  • Reviews

Old Man Markley

Down Side Up - Fat Wreck Chords

On their sophomore release, Old Man Markley strives to prove that they are more than just a novelty act. Their debut, Guts N Teeth showcased their unique blend of bluegrass and punk music and was definitely a fun listen. This time around the group have provided a mix of sounds that made their debut so catchy with tracks that show an increased focus on musicianship.

The album kicks off with a rousing number anchored by John Rosen’s banjo, Blood on My Hands. While the song is still played at high speed, listeners will definitely notice the emphasis on Rosen’s folk styling, Katie Weed’s fiddle and Alex Zablosky’s mandolin. The follow it up with a slower pace on Rehearsal, which again brings to light how much the band has progressed instrumentally. The album goes back and forth between break neck bluegrass jams and mid tempo ballads, with the occasional twist thrown in, such as kazoo breaks and the fiddle laden waltz of album closer Too Soon for Goodnight. Ryan Markley and Joey Garibaldi add interest and keep the rhythm on washboard and washtub bass, while Aaron Higgins adds balances to the folk with some fine drum beats.  The ladies have their moment to shine as well, with Annie Temple stepping up to the mic to showcase her sweet voice on Upside Down and Come Around Here, with Katie providing harmonies. The band fit somewhere between Old Crow Medicine Show and Only Crime in your record collection, both alphabetically and musically. This is most obvious on America’s Dreaming, an upbeat folk song with a left leaning political bent to the lyrics. Of course, despite the focus of this review on the evolution of the band into more mature territory, it should be noted that their breakthrough hit For Better, For Worse (and its’ accompanying video) captured listeners attention with its humor. John Carey doesn’t disappoint. The catchy tune Beyond the Moon contains the lines “don’t wanna lose my mind like Gary Busey did, once upon a time he was the same as you and me. If I lose my mind like Gary Busey did, promise me you’ll be around to keep me company,” with backing music that can only be described as whimsical. There is a lot here for long time OMM fans here, with lots of room to attract new listeners.

The band has built a strong following touring with punk bands like NOFX, Dropkick Murphys, but they also played Stagecoach with the legendary Ralph Stanley and placed well on the Billboard Bluegrass charts in 2011. The regular fans of the Fat catalogue will love the energy on this album, but it should also catch the ear of fans of roots bands like Devil Makes Three.  As a whole, the songs show a maturity that should leave the staunchest bluegrass purist sitting up and taking notice, while expressing enough attitude to appease the punk crowd.