The Ready Stance was formed by guitarist/songwriter Wes Pence, who was a member of popular local ’90s band Middlemarch (with drummer Eric Moreton, also in The Ready Stance), after some neighborhood jam sessions with returning expat Chase Johnson, a singer/guitarist who had been living and playing music in Athens, Ga. The band was complete once bassist Paolo Conti (another jam pal) signed on. (Ex Ass Ponys/current Fairmount Girls member Randy Cheek is now holding down the bottom end for the band.)
Advanced tracks have been making the rounds and earned nods of approval by some impressive fellow musicians, including The Feelies’ Stan Demeski, Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club’s Chris Frantz and Cincinnati’s own Chuck Cleaver (Ass Ponys, Wussy), who also makes a brief cameo on the quirky Damndest track “Steamship Moselle.”
Some of the early accolades for Damndest have noted a “retro” vibe to the songs, but the album really has a timeless quality, something that’s hard to achieve, but The Ready Stance manages to pull off naturally. There’s some of the jingle-jangle of The Feelies, early R.E.M. and the “Paisley Underground” set, but the band doesn’t sound time-capsuled in from the early ’80s. They could have been born in 1968, 1978, 1985, 1993 or 2012.
Damndest is loaded with strong melodies, some classic Pop/Rock harmonies, a sturdy rhythm section and some crafty but never flashy guitar interplay, while Pence’s lyrics are so clever and smart (dealing out stories, humor, social commentary and insight in equal measure), it’s almost as entertaining to just sit down and read the lyrics in the album’s insert.
Cincinnati’s presence is felt throughout Damndest, from the Cleaver walk-on and the rootsy twang that creeps up on occasion to the heartland Pop vibe of certain songs (I found myself often reminded of Chris Arduser’s Graveblankets albums while listening) and several lyrical references.
On the (Cincinnati) Skids
Tim Skidmore and his all-star crew dubbed Cincinnati Skids celebrate the release of their debut album, Hangin’ By a Thread, this Saturday at the 20th Century Theatre in Oakley. Marcos Sastre and The Bluebirds open the show at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.
Hangin’ By a Thread is so much more than simply a “debut release” from the Skids. It’s the definition of a labor of love. Skidmore has been performing locally since the early ’70s, starting out in the Blues scene and, more recently, leading the solid Rockabilly outfit The Hopheads. In 2007, Skidmore found a lump on his neck that turned out to be cancer — Large B-Cell Follicular Lymphoma.
Told he had a 50/50 chance of living, Skidmore decided to record several of the songs he had written throughout his career. For help, he contacted some of his friends, who just happened to be some of the premier musicians in town, including drummer/singer “Bam” Powell (The Raisins, Stagger Lee), Bob Nyswonger (Raisins, The Bears, Psychodots), Ricky Nye (Boogie Woogie Blues piano master and another former Raisin) and Sastre, among others.
The songs on the release were written over a 30-year time period and the breadth of influences Skidmore picked up over his musical life make for a fun and wildly diverse listen, moving from slinky Blues and R&B (“She Waltzed in Here”) and classic Rock balladry (the heart-wrenching ode to a lost pal, “Brian”), to Beatles-like Pop (“Child of the Moon”) and Wire-meets-The-Violent-Femmes College Rock/Post Punk (“Sorry Sorry”).
While the music is played flawlessly and the songs are well written, Skidmore isn’t the greatest singer. Though he sometimes struggles to hit notes, he’s excellent when he goes for more of a Rock & Roll howl — on “Death Stare” he gives Jim Morrison a run for his primal-scream money. Still, even when he’s “pitchy,” you can feel the passion he’s pouring straight from his soul into the music.
After treatment and help from the Barrett Center at U.C., Skidmore’s cancer is now in remission. Hopefully that means there’s more music to come from the Skids. With Hangin’ By a Thread, what began as something of a “bucket list” project may end up being the start of revitalized music career.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: firstname.lastname@example.org