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from Punk Planet #73
Lots of Folks know Salinas, California for its place in literature, where John Steinbeck culled narratives of the working class quietly wrestling with the American dream. Migrant workers, a darker shade of brown, continue to settle in that town in the tradiation of pursuing happiness through hard labor. It's a new narrative of immigrants, ones who have come to this country carrying with them the inalienable right to raise families against a culture who have deemed them illegal aliens. Rum & Rebellion was born from this history and hypocrisy, describing their music as "straight from the heart and a bit from the hips." George Sanchez, guitarist and vocalist, spins stories so honest and sincere you feel like you're listening to a friend while perched on a barstool under amber lights. With bassist Joe Hunt and drummer Scott MacDonald, Rum & Rebellion (R & R) churn out country-inspired folk-esque music that is reminiscent of Fifteen and Against Me!, with seething ferocity and deeply personal odes. R & R offers us a type of socio-political commentary that is missing from our collective music collection, shedding light on a community built by migrant workers and their daily plight. Sanchez's voice strains, course and rough, like the words to his songs, wrapping us in stories of death and the living who are slowly dying ("Oh Salinas," "El Corrido de Oscar") and bittersweet tales of the heart ("Bye Bye Anne," "This Sin"). This DIY record is free from any pretense or illusions of grandeur, put out by the band itself. There's humility in their songs, where you feel like they're trying the best they can, and that's all we really want. The reality of revolution is that it's a slow upheaval, a marathon -- not a sprint. R & R knows that it takes one step at a time: "Used to be a socialist and I used to carry a card / I used to sell our paper to the students in the yard / Wondered why no one bought it / then I walked into the street. / Realized no one bought it 'cause they need something to eat." ("Turning Point").
-- Amy Adoyzie
from HeartattaCk #49
I am so glad this is what I thought it would be and its as good as it is. This is an upbeat, jangly guitar-fueled, and passionately voiced folk-pop outfit hailing from Salinas, California. Fans of This Bike is a Pipe Bomb would love this band. The lyrics are honest and refreshing. Thirteen heartfelt songs telling true stories of rebellion and love focused on the people and community they live in. The cardboard CD layout is nice looking too, including a short bio on the 70-something artst whose artwork they used. This band is fucking fantastic and recommendable to anyone who loves folk/punk and good story telling. Hand numbered CDs out of 1000!
-- Weston Czerkies
from Performer Mag
Part of the allure of punk rock is that you can put in whatever you want, play it fast and rough, and never worry about the consequences. Elements of bluegrass, country, or even ska have shown up in stalwart punk regimes, and Rum & Rebellion are no different. George Sanchez's whiskey-scratched voice invokes thoughts of Guttermouth or the Germs, but the band's sociopolitical agenda is more in tune with Punk In Drublic-era NOFX and the furious attacks of Bad Religion.
The band is heavily influenced by its current home, Salinas, CA, and many of their songs deal with the migratory sentiment that permeates the city. Issues of culture, tradition, and community are dear to the band, and the spreading disregard for these ideals serves to fuel their frustration and provide the energy in their songs. While the term country-punk seems to be creeping up through the ranks of hyphenated subcategories, Rum & Rebellion taps into something a bit broader. This is fast, messy music with lofty intent, but it is nothing if not sincere. When asked what they call their music, they simply replied that it was straight from the heart and a bit from the hip. Sanchez cites the birth of bluegrass as parallel to their efforts, as it was originally derided by mainstream country audiences for being ignorantly fast and reckless.
The music may be fast and reckless, but it's certainly not ignorant. John Steinbeck, Woody Guthrie, and Nabokov all grace the music (both in reference and influence), and their legacy of disquiet and restlessness haunt the record. When Sanchez yells about the fatalist approach of bigger cages and longer chains in "Where We're At," he's not only referring to the dire straits of a family, but also the squalor of an economy pressed under a totalitarian regime. Rum & Rebellion are not afraid to shout out about the injustices they see around them, and to get people thinking as well as stomping their feet. (Self-released)
-- Stephen Gresch
from Chumpire #188
Stories of heartbreak and people done wrong by people and by the man. California punk with the folk touch-ups. The girl/guy duet song is a heartbreaker. Good times for bars, coffeehouses and basements.
-- Greg Knowles
from Mammoth Press
Chances that you have ever heard of Salinas, CA are pretty slim unless you've read Steinbeck, or are a migrant farm worker. Rum & Rebellion's members are not originally from this community, but following migrant tradition, they are fiercely aware of the history of their adoptive home. Their debut Rum & Rebellion is sparse sounding punk rock with an old timey twang, and bears resemblance to Crime-era Against Me! or This Bike Is A Pipebomb.
The opening drum roll to Oh Salinas is a fitting introduction to the band, and the buildup sets the appropriate tone for the rest of the album. George Sanchez' vocals are gritty, but he is at his best during the story like verses that he constructs. It is impossible to leave out the social and political commentary from Rum & Rebellion, in fact, every single song on this album offers stringent criticism to the current situation in which we are all living in. But that criticism is provided in a similar way to Steinbeck's story telling a la "Grapes of Wrath". In fact, the first time I listened to this album, I couldn't resist imagining these guys in dustbowl era outfits playing in a half lit dusty room. At the same time, it is impossible to forget the songs' Latino heritage, and I find a lot of common threads of his experience and my own.
This is a solid release, and even though the sound is minimalist and sparse, the instrumentation is not sloppy like many homologous folk-country/punk outfits. The guitar work is simple, yet it carries great melodies and I really enjoy the songs that include the acoustic guitars. My favorite track is the closing song Turning Point, that had me screaming along as I drove across the Golden Gate bridge the first time I heard the album. The album ranges from the virulent Right to Revolution to the regretful This Sin, and the passion is felt throughout the entire album.
A great sounding release, from a band whose future maybe uncertain, but whose debut release is noteworthy. I hope to hear more from these guys, they should be a welcome addition to your collection, to settle nicely between your Plan-It-X and No Idea releases.
8 out of 10
RIYL: This Bike Is A Pipebomb, Against Me!, Defiance, Ohio, Trainwreck Riders.
-- Lalo Guerrero