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Ike Reilly's hard-knocks
make for a winner

Ike Reilly - Hard Luck Stories
(Rock Ridge Music)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Jan. 15, 2010
Ike Reilly

Review by Tony Bonyata

With a new release nearly every year over the last decade Chicagoland-based musician Ike Reilly has proven himself quite the prolific artist, and the fact that his music seems to get a little stronger with each ensuing release should only help secure the spotlight he's been working so hard at over the years. While the gritty Americana sound that he's probably best known for might seem perfectly suited for the title of his seventh full-length album, Hard Luck Stories, Reilly instead broadens his musical palette to work in more melodic pop, R&B, a hint of punk, country and even a tinge of gospel, and it proves to be his most well-rounded and varied effort to date.

Reilly has also invited a few friends into the fold which helps liven up the party. Shooter Jennings (Waylon's son) playfully duets with Ike on the drawling country tune "War On The Terror And The Drugs," while the singer's hometown Libertyville High School Choir heartily chimes in on "Good Work (If You Can Get It). Cracker cofounder Johnny Hickman adds his signature six-strings to the spirited "Girls In The Backroom," a number that digs into the high-energy '70s power-pop of the Midwest (a style which Reilly also taps into on the punkier "7 Come 11"), while Cracker cohort David Lowery also joins in on the decidedly earthier "The Ballad Of Jack And Haley," a song which tells the tale of a father losing custody of his daughter after getting busted for growing marijuana in his home. As much as his guests all make welcome additions to the mix here, it never overshadows the fact that Reilly is not only an engaging raconteur (carefully balancing tales of hard-knocks, humor and gritty realism) but also a terrific musician and bandleader.

Whether these tales of tough-luck and hard-knocks are inspired by Reilly's own experiences or not, one thing's for certainÉ this guy's on a roll.

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