Label: Oak Honest Records
(Release Date: March 27, 2021)
Things aren’t always what they sound like. Take, for example, the collection of new songs that comprise Ink and Nicotine, the new album from consistently energetic alt-country/Americana band Red Idle Rejects. What at first might seem a carefree, rollicking experience turns into a much more thoughtful and provocative listening event when you pay attention to the lyrics and string the tunes together into a complete encounter. This music isn’t just the sound of rural-covered country roots—not just another nod to the enduring legacy of the Kentucky sound—it’s a musical anthology of the mentality of the lives lived there. It’s a pioneering musical move, and it is a total success.
Rescue me from the continual regurgitation of songs that seem to be coming out these days, I thought. Then, like a promise fulfilled, Red Idle Rejects built on their previously successful albums and extended a musical lifeline.
This is not the same old Americana. As a result of the density of these songs, this album has added ambition, noble purpose and, as a result, even greater rewards. Ink and Nicotine is an achievement in the way it matches the band’s greatest strength—its music and impeccable musicianship—with equally powerful lyrics, thus creating a taut and compelling listening experience.
The album is a trilogy; a collection of songs that explore the opioid epidemic that afflicts contemporary America. The issue is especially present in the dwindling coal industry territory of Appalachia, which makes Red Idle Rejects the perfect band to guide us authentically through such an important journey. The kick-ass music played throughout Ink and Nicotine is played with authority and conveys both the inward and outward opioid experience (in all of its causes and effects) with sensitivity and complexity.
Red Idle Rejects consists of: Jeff Boling on lead guitar, Steve Bowling on acoustic guitar and vocals, Grace Bowling on vocals, Daniel Parker Ferguson on bass guitar, Derek Johnson on drums, and Kurt Kaufman on guitar, drums and vocals. Everyone contributes gloriously to the final product, with each player getting more than a moment or two to really shine (especially the guitarists). There is a hard-driving determination to the album, conveyed with wit and bite by musicians at the top of their game, playing songs that should be heard… and listened to. Music has healing powers and no doubt these songs are already working toward that end.