Showing posts with label Hellbound Glory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hellbound Glory. Show all posts

Dec 22, 2017

Ten Best Songs of 2017: Another Perspective



The Best Songs of 2017 

By Kevin Broughton

Trailer’s list was okay, but just. It demands a response, so here are the ten best songs of 2017.

Good talk.

Come for the 1½-minute intro of standup bass, brushes & organ. 
Stay for the good-time rock, sassy-ass blues & rockabilly.


Sure, “White House Road” gets all the hype. For straight-up poignance, though, give me this as the best cut on the smash debut album Purgatory. Well, this one or “Lady May.”


The opening track on what I voted the No. 1 album of the year. The richness of this full-grown folk singer’s baritone speaks for itself and nearly defies substantive description. It simply is. PS, he’s 22 years old. I think we’re done here.


The best voice in all of country music.


On an album full of gems from some of the best musicians in Texas, here’s a real treat: an acoustic version of “Superstition,” featuring virtuoso pianist Daniel Creamer on vocals. It’s sublime.


Two years ago these guys had our album of the year, and Trailer in his autocratic grace declared, rightly, “The Bird Hunters” our top song. Which makes it so shocking he would put “Pay No Rent” (respectfully, maybe the third-best cut on FTM’s #2 Album of the Year) so high, to the exclusion of the clearly superior “The House Fire.” A disturbing lapse in judgment at best; one hopes there’s not a deeper character flaw in play.

“I heard the judge ask the jury, ‘which one’s the one to go?’ Then I heard them say my name, and why I’ll never know.” A song of guilt, forgiveness and redemption, from the point of view of the criminal pardoned while the Savior bought ours.  

Carve out some of that kindling. There’s plenty of wood around.

Pure, country authenticity. It tastes like honey.

“We could steal some Keystone Beer from an A-rab liquor store.”






Oct 13, 2017

Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory: The Farce the Music Interview

Leroy Virgil: The Farce the Music Interview

By Kevin Broughton

Americana. Roots music. Roots rock. Alt-country. Outlaw country. Interchangeable terms, when trying to classify the music we here at FTM try to promote – when we’re not busting on the mainstream “country” acts that pollute terrestrial radio airwaves. Sirius/XM has a channel dedicated to it. Number 60 on their satellite dial is “Outlaw Country,” and even in that niche you’ll find a lot of genre bending. 

Steve Earle, a bona fide second-generation pioneer of the outlaw scene, came right out with it on his most recent album. Always subtle, Earle planted the flag – one hopes to signify an emergence from a decade’s worth of political activism – and named his record So You Wanna Be An Outlaw. Because we needed to be reminded how much of an outlaw he is, one assumes. 

But if you asked Hellbound Glory’s Leroy Virgil, “Are you an outlaw?” he’d likely pause, ponder for a moment and say, “Sure!” with the happy grin of a kid about to play cowboys and Indians. And with the aid of a prodigious producer, he’s made probably the most outlaw album of the year. 

Pinball has Shooter Jennings’ fingerprints all over it. He even shot a clever tease video for pre-sales, featuring a menacing woman of Asian extraction and a masked goon in a Hawaiian shirt wielding a bat. The songs, though – excepting a couple of covers – are vintage Leroy Virgil: benders, binges, breakups and blues, with the occasional jaded comic’s view of society at large. 

“’Merica (The Good Ol’ Days)” kicks off the album in a brash, rollicking way. It’s a cynic’s state of the union – with citizens fueled by “alcohol and Adderall” – without being heavy-handed. There’s a wonderful cover of the elder Jennings’ “Six Strings Away,” but for my money the gem of this record is “Vandalism Spree,” the best white-trash love song since DBT’s “Zip City.” Somehow there’s a sweet and tender quality to the idea of burning down the Dairy Queen and maybe robbing a cash machine.  


To fully appreciate Hellbound Glory, though, you have to talk to Leroy. More accurately, ask a few questions then just take your hands off the wheel. You’re along for the ride. That’s all. More topically, the conversation is pinball-like. 

I think this is real. Let’s see where this goes.

Okay, is it pronounced “LEE-Roy” or  “L’roy?”

I don’t know, man, whichever is fine. Say it however you want to say it.

Well, how do you say it?

I say it differently every time it comes out of my mouth.

Well played. You’ve been on Shooter Jennings label for a while; is this the first record of yours he’s produced? I ask because the first time I listened to Pinball I heard echoes of his The Other Life album.

Well, a couple years ago we went out to Nashville to record some of the songs that are on this album, and it didn’t really come together. We just sat on the phones for a couple years and he finally hit me up a year ago and said, “Hey, let’s try again on this album.” And he picked the songs, put the band together and really called the shots. It’s been a lot of fun.

So the band he put together…well, let me back up. Y’all are fixin’ to kick off a tour together; will y’all be using the same band?

Yeah. They joined my band and I joined theirs.

Okay. So is Hellbound Glory kind of like Son Volt, which is Jay Farrar and whatever musicians happen to be playing with him at the time?

Well, yeah. A couple years ago, I decided to kill the band off. It was a sort of ritual on Halloween. I had a coffin. There was a guy dressed up as a priest. I didn’t want to go that far, but it was a very strange night. You know, out in the middle of nowhere, a strange, tiny bar…some burn victims…

Burn victims? 

Yeah, things got kinda crazy.

Yeah?

You know, that whole area is in this burial ground place where people came out during the Gold Rush and gave the Indians blankets that had smallpox on them so they could get to the gold faster. So they say that whole area is kind of cursed.

What could go wrong? 

Yeah. So it was kind of a heavy trip. 

I would think. Were you dosed?

(Giggles.) Well, I did some dosing, but I wasn’t dosed myself. 

For the record, what’s your birth name?

My birth name is Leon Virgil Bowers. 

Okay – and I’m jumping ahead in my questions here a little bit…I read your interview in Saving Country Music, where you talked about killing the name off. I’m curious, when you were a solo act under your birth name for a few years, was there confusion with the audiences? I ask because in the 70s when the Allman Brothers took a hiatus, Gregg and Dickey both did solo albums, but the latter billed himself on the record and tour as “Richard Betts.” Ticket and record sales underperformed as a result.

Oh, yeah. Lots of confusion, but I like to promote that kind of stuff. I just figured if I was gonna go out there with a different name, I might as well go with the name my mom gave me.  I never ended up putting out a record. The deal was I needed to do something different, because the people I was working with, they weren’t sure I could use the name “Hellbound Glory” at the time. 

Oh…okay.

So I had to change it. But it’s still up in the air. So, we’re still working on getting it worked out. 

Ah.

Well, not really working on it. I’m just playing in a band and calling it Hellbound Glory. 

You know, just in the first few minutes of this thing, I’m starting to see how you and Shooter might be drawn to each other…

Yeah, we’re like cousins.

...y’all both seem to like a little bit of chaos going on. So did y’all not even know each other at all until a couple years ago, and he reached out to you? 

Well, I was playing a gig in Reno at a place called Davidson’s, and he was playing right down the street at a Casino called Silver Legacy. So I just walked down and caught their sound check.  And we didn’t really make a connection, but then later he heard of me and heard my songs, and now he’s one of my biggest fans. 

Obviously. The characters in your songs are a collection of misfits – and that’s being kind. 

(Laughs) Yeah, degenerates!

Their attitudes range from cynical to fatalistic to carefree – and certainly aren’t shy about discussing their benders and binges.  What are they telling us about your general outlook on life?

Well…they’re just songs. They’re not me. I’d say this new album – I like the way it doesn’t end on a happy note. I guess it’s nihilistic in that way. But I’m not.

Oh, no. You did a symbolic, ritual killing-off of a band on a site where Indians got dosed with smallpox, but “nihilistic?” Nah. Please go on.

(Laughing) Well, I’m an artist. And a little bit skewed, I guess. But it’s the whole “Pinball” thing, you know? Life’s a game of pinball, where if you lose, you lose your soul. That’s kinda what I’m going for: staying in play as long as I can.  But there’s the chaos thing you mentioned. Sometimes it’s hard not to slip. You follow me?

Oh, yeah. I’ve been wearing this record out for the last three weeks. The line, “We could steal some Keystone beer from an A-rab liquor store” has made “Vandalism Spree” one of my favorite songs of the year. You’re not a politically correct fella, are you? 

Well, I didn’t realize it wasn’t politically correct. 

Come on!

I don’t even know what that song’s about. I don’t remember making it up. But there’s a lot of liquor stores run by…well, there’s a lot of liquor stores in Reno, and I’m friends with all of them. I don’t actually steal from them. (Giggles)

Do you think political correctness has taken some of the rough edges off of alt-country or outlaw music, and did you notice music being politicized in the genre last year and since? 

Huh, that’s a really good question, let me think about that one for a minute. You know, I’ve never really thought about that too much. I was told I was gonna get some backlash for that lyric when I first wrote it and started singing it. The people I was working with wanted me to change it, and I tried to change it…

What??

Yeah, I tried to change it but Shooter said he’d give me a Bitcoin if I left it the way it was…

I’m dying here…

…and now that Bitcoin is worth four thousand bucks. 

I’m gonna interview Shooter eventually and I’ll just get him to explain how that stuff works. It’s just so nebulous to me.

Yeah, I don’t know too much about it, either. I just passed it off to my ex-wife. I gave her all of it, just to hold onto for my kid. 

Well, that’s cool. If you can use it for child support it’s gotta be real, right? 

Well, I tried. I tried. But, no luck. She wanted real money.  But on the whole politics thing, I guess I’m just not smart enough to keep up with it. I’m more interested in what other people think. I guess it’s a good thing that people are venting and getting it out; maybe the pressure cooker will cool down a little bit.

Well, it’s either that or huffing spray paint and gasoline, like your guy in “Vandalism Spree.”

(Giggling) Yeah, exactly! There’s always that. But mostly I just follow what’s going on with the bands and music. 

Who are you listening to these days?

Wheeler Walker, Jr.

Of course.

I’ve been listening to him all day.

I haven’t heard his second album; the first was a work of brilliance.

It’s pretty good. It popped up – I had my music on “random,” and it popped up while I was driving my kid around and I tried to change it real fast and he was like, “What was that? Play it, play it!” So I had to.

How old is he?

My kid? He’s six.  I was hoping to get Wheeler to play his birthday party but I couldn’t make it happen. 

Maybe if you paid him in Bitcoin…

Bob Wayne. Are you familiar with Bob Wayne?

I’m not.

He’s pretty good. He’s a country artist who wrote some songs for Hank III.  You know, maybe I’ll get him to play my son’s birthday party. Seems a little more feasible. 

If you were granted one wish to change something about country music today, what would it be?

Well, I’d wish that I were at the top of it. I think I could do a lot of good for country music. 

For instance?

Well, it’s because my stuff is so real. It’s blues and it’s folk and it’s country. It’s all that…and maybe, I don’t know, maybe it’s too country.  I grew up in the country, and I can’t tell if [today’s music] is too country or not country enough. But it’s boring. Boring! Yeah, that’s what it is. 

That leads to my next question. In “That’s Just What I Am” you let folks know you aren’t from down South but still have country bona fides. No one who knows your work would dispute that. I’m curious what life was like growing up in rural Washington state, and whether you went on vandalism sprees from time to time.

(Laughs) You know, I bounced around quite a bit. By the time I was five years old, I had lived in California, Nevada, Utah and Washington. So I had lived pretty much all over the West, and I had also lived in Missouri and Arkansas by that time, too. I was all over the place.

But I grew up in Washington in the same town as Kurt Cobain, a little logging town called Aberdeen. My stepfather was an oyster farmer, so I had to spend every day after school at a farm. Just tromping around out in the woods – if I got in trouble at school I would have to go and work with him. I was always in a lot of trouble. (Laughs)

I was in so much trouble that if I was even halfway good during the week…I had to take a note to the office for them to say if I was bad or good. And if I was good, they’d give me ice cream. They chained me to my desk…

What? 

They made me make paper chains and chain myself to the desk. I’m working on a song called “Paper Chains.” It’s gonna be about divorce. Breaking paper chains. That’s country, huh? I think it’s pretty f*cking country. 

Yeah, man. You’re legit. Did you end up getting much ice cream?

Once or twice, as I remember. But the lady in the office I had to go down to with the note, she said I was her favorite student she ever taught. She told my aunt I was a good kid. So she liked me.  

When did you know that music was what you had to do for a living? 

Driving around with my stepdad and mom, going back to Aberdeen from Olympia, and Nirvana’s Nevermind had come out. My dad was playing it in the car because he knew Krist Novocelik, the bass player. And he said, “I can play this song; this is easy.” And I said, “No you can’t! You can’t play this!”

And we got back to the house and he grabbed a guitar and started playing all these Nirvana songs. And I figured if he could do it and they could do it, I could do it. 

And was that the first time you had picked up a guitar? 

Well, yeah, other than just picking up guitars around the house and d*cking around with them. 

Well, how old were you when Nevermind came out?

Let me think…I was 10.

Wow. So what are you, about 37?

I’m 36. 

Scrolling through the song titles during my first listen to Pinball, one jumped off the page. Guess which. It’s a cover

Hmmm. Let me think about the songs now…a cover. “Six Strings Away?” No, “Delta Dawn!”


Yes! I was in the second grade when Helen Reddy had a No. 1 hit with it, and had no idea until now that Tanya Tucker had done a version the year before. What in the world made you want to cut that one?

Tanya Tucker? I’d f*ck her. (Giggles for a while)

Oh my.

Someone requested it at a gig in Idaho, and we just started messing around with it. It just sounded so good that I just kept at it. But a few years ago I was married to a girl named Dawn. I’m not gonna say it was a tribute to her, but that’s how I just put my personal feelings into it. Know what I mean? I just think about her whenever I sing it. 

Do you remember the first time you heard the song? 

Right now I’m drawing a blank. 

Was it the Tanya Tucker or Helen Reddy version, if you recall?

The one that first jumped out at me was the one Waylon did.

That’s right! 

It was on a box set that, funnily enough, she (Dawn) bought me for Christmas, all those years ago. One of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten. 

Waylon covered a bunch of really good songs. 

What a great voice. 

What else you got going on? 

Right now I’m almost to Pittsburgh, on my way to a Shooter show in West Virginia. I’m not on the bill, but I am gonna get up and do a couple songs and promote my new thing. After this Pinball thing comes out I’m wanting to do a new project called Bird dog. 

Called what?

Bird Dawg – d-a-w-g. Songs about birds and dogs and p**sy and fishing.

Well, then.

I’ve got a bunch of pictures of dogs that I’m gonna autograph and sell, and all the money will go toward the album. I’ve got this song about mountain lions in Southern California. It’s…well, it’s not really a political song, but there’s a little bit of a message in it. It may be one of my most political songs ever. It’s about this mountain lion who can’t get back to his mate. 

Uh…

(Giggling)

Okay, I’ll bite. How is there a political message in that? 

Well, I’m not really…I’m just saying how it is, know what I mean?

Nope.

It’s from the perspective of the mountain lion. And he’s just talking about how all these humans have come along, and now he can’t cross the freeway. 

Can’t believe I didn’t pick up on something so obvious.

It’s my favorite song to sing right now.

Do you have a rough cut of it you could send me? For my ears only?

Sure! Be happy to. I need to demo it anyway. 

Cool. Well, before we get to the project about birds and dogs and other favorite things, what do you have lined up tour-wise?

I cannot wait. I’m so excited to get out on the road and start playing songs and seeing all my fans and hanging out. I’m really looking forward to getting back out there. 

I just landed a song in a movie, so I’m gonna take that money and get a cop car and just tour in that…

Wait. What? 

Yeah, me and Rico.

(Getting the feeling this has all been an Andy Kaufman-level put-on) Who’s…who’s Rico?

Rico…he’s not with me right now. He just moved out of my house, he was living in my spare bedroom. By the way, I’ve got an awesome house. 

Yeah?

It overlooks all of Reno. I can see the whole entire town. It sits on top of a hill. And it’s filled with pinball machines. For Rico. He’s my steel guitar player.

But he’s a real person, right? Not an imaginary friend or an alternate personality? (Serious question at this point)

No, he’s…if I’m the Lone Ranger, he’s Tonto. But he’s not here right now. He…he doesn’t have an I.D., so he can’t get on an airplane…

Is he undocumented?

(Cackling) Yeah, you know, sometimes I wish they would ship him back. But he’s worked for me for a long time, and we’ve got chemistry. He and I have some really good chemistry you just don’t find every day. I’m really not that big a fan of his playing, but you don’t mess with what works. 

:-/

But you know we’ve toured together as just a duo, playing to really big crowds. Like the White Stripes or the Black Keys.

My beef with the White Stripes was always – was it Jack White’s sister? – well, the (in air quotes) DRUMMER couldn’t really play the drums.

Yeah, I was never a big fan, either. 

Well, when you said you weren’t a huge fan of his playing, I thought, “Well, maybe the White Stripes comparison was appropriate.”

It sounds really rudimentary. But for me it’s his voice that gets really annoying. 

(Fairly certain he’s talking about Jack White, not “Rico,” but who knows at this point?)

I like something a little more pleasing to the ear.

So, you’ll be supporting Shooter, using his band for the next couple weeks, then when you do the actual Hellbound Glory tour it’ll just be you and Rico?

To be honest with you, I have no idea. I’ve got a couple gigs lined up in Reno. I play every Thursday at this place called Davidson’s Distillery. The best way I can describe it is it’s like something out of a Fellini movie. It would blow your mind. 

I’m not sure anything you tell me could now, Leroy…

It’s like Reno 911. So if you’re ever in Reno, I’m there every Thursday. I’ll be playing there for many years. If you’re ever in Reno on a Thursday you should definitely come hang out.

* * *

The whole exchange had a Reno 911 feel to it, and it’s easy to assume you’ve been clowned after such a ride – or rhetorical pinball game. Finishing up the transcript the notion nagged, so I reached out with a text.


As fate would have it, as I was texting him he was at that moment reciprocating. Turns out it was just lots of coffee. The Mountain Lion song is real, and it’s awesome. Leroy Virgil is real and adorably kooky. The goofy outlaw just made a great record. 

Even without Rico. 

----------

Pinball is available today.
Physical: bit.ly/2wqq0us
Google Play: bit.ly/2x5Pgc6

Jan 13, 2016

Exclusive Hellbound Glory/Excavators Song Premiere "Going Poaching" + Some Memes


Here's a new Excavators (ft. members of Hellbound Glory) song Leroy sent me to post on the site.
He also requested I post a Blake/Miranda meme with it. Not sure what he was getting at, but I'm not gonna argue, so here's the new single entitled "Going Poaching" along with a few Blake/Miranda memes (one borrowed from a Ric Flair Facebook page), so hopefully I covered the angle he was aiming for.

By the way, Hellbound Glory has a newish EP/Single
out called The Black Mass, along with The Excavators first album. 
Both are excellent!





Update: Here's one Leroy sent in.


Jul 18, 2014

May 19, 2014

Moonrunners Festival 2014: Jeremy's Recollections


Moonrunners II

By Jeremy Harris
(Note: This is largely unedited and unabridged, so all credit and/or blame goes to Jeremy)

MoonRunners Music Festival promised after year one that "You ain't seen nothing yet" (Was this a reference to the blacklights in the restrooms at Reggie's because I don't wanna see it if so.) so I thought I'd put them to the test by checking out version 2.0 this year. And disappointed I was not. Hell, I was even overwhelmed by the talent that was packed into Reggie's in downtown Chicago and the food packed into the $10 buffet over the two day period. They even managed to add a third day as a pre-party at Reggie's featuring Powder Mill, Dustbowl Revival, Rosie Flores and more. Being that I had never caught a Powder Mill show but had enjoyed their recorded music so much, I was ready to spend the extra day at the venue. Powder Mill definitely did not disappoint and played a short but powerful set for the Thursday night crowd. Up next was Dustbowl Revival and needless to say I was a little skeptical when they came to the stage with more members (including a trombone and clarinet player to accompany the normal string band configuration) than you'd find on the coaching staff of a college basketball team. I was pleasantly surprised by the sweet sound and the overall good time feel that the band brought with them. The final act of the evening was Rosie Flores and wow! What a talent and special kind of entertainer she was. Rosie had the entire crowd in the palm of her hand (namely the frontman of a band that performed earlier that night that shall remain nameless) with her superb telecaster skills and beautiful voice as she promised to "Americana your faces off" to everyone in attendance. I'm not sure what it's supposed to feel like to get your face removed by Americana but to me it felt like more of a demonstration of how to kick you ass with rock-n-roll with a country twist, but what do I know, other than that this was a good way to start the weekend and kickoff the festival which would begin the next day.

Joey Henry's Dirty Sunshine Club
So many words for a name of one guy and a banjo. Joey played a mostly slow paced set of mostly original, strongly written songs with a few uptempo songs mixed in and was a good way to kick the festival off at 2:00 on saturday. For his last song, Joey brought up Rachel Kate to do a duet and the two sounded perfect together and had the early crowd enchanted throughout the performance.

Lou Shields
A wise man once said "Give a man some soy sauce and he'll eat for a day but give a man a soy sauce bucket and he'll attach a foot pedal and a bungee strap to it and travel around the country playing music and hope he can afford a sandwich every once in a while" or something like that. Point is, Lou took the bucket, and some outdoor carpet, and a skateboard, some rocks, a cup, a box guitar and a few other things and turned them into a musical act that is quite entertaining all while having good material. Lou romped through his short set with his multiple instruments and quick quips between songs. Definitely an act I hope to catch doing a longer set in the near future.

Six Gun Britt
Every time I go to any festival I can place all the performers into a few groups: Never heard and will give them a chance, heard and wanna hear again and heard and could care less. Six Gun Britt was the first performer to be in the never heard group and it didn't take long for me to know she was a pure talent and could have a bright future ahead of her. Luckily for me she also had a set on Saturday and seemed to improve overnight. Her chatter between songs was sweet and funny and her original songs came off as being very personal and straight from the heart. This is one girl and her guitar that I hope will be booked for next year and continue on an upward trajectory that could very easily reach the top.

Nellie Wilson
After hearing Nellie perform last year with Last False Hope but failing to catch her solo performance earlier in the day, I knew I wouldn't make the same mistake this year. What I witnessed was a very classic country voice playing as a two piece band with her on acoustic guitar while being accompanied by either a steel or electric guitar. Nellie played a wonderful mix of songs and made me wish even more I had caught her set last year.

Coondog and the Stumpjumpers
The Stumpjumpers must have gotten stuck on a branch somewhere so Coondog was flying solo for this one. With or without a backing band this guy just has something good going on and needs more recognition. Seems like I only hear anything about Coondog when MoonRunners starts posting info for their festival each year or when he puts a post up himself.

Pearls Mahone
Nothing but good old time country swing is what you'll get from Pearls and her band. With Pearls providing the vocals and a superb six piece backing band (seven after a clarinet player made his way onto the stage) keeping the beat fast and smooth, Marty McFly would think the DeLorean had screwed up and sent him sixty years too far back. I've got a feeling Marty would've hung around before tracking Doc down to look into this one.

Lonewolf OMB
One man and his various instruments causing a dance outbreak on what was quickly becoming a crowded smaller stage area. With his upbeat playing and growly voice, Lonewolf sped his way through a furious set and everyone responded.

Adam Lee Band
Two songs in and Adam had busted a string and knocked pickup out of whack on his acoustic guitar. Luckily Adam had another guitar waiting behind him on stage and didn't have to miss a second. The crowd was really getting into the old school sounds reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash and so was Adam and his band. One thing that will stick with everyone lucky enough to be packed around the smaller stage area when Adam's hair was flopping around and became askew and a fan handed him a comb to straighten himself back up just so he could jump around and do it all over again.

The Hooten Hollers
These guys are the best three piece rock band you'll ever find that features a tuba in many of their songs. Actually, they may be the only people that fit into that category so lets just say they are a straight up kick ass rock band and the tuba is a pretty awesome addition to the group. If you'd told me I would enjoy a three piece band with a tuba, I would've called you crazy before seeing it myself. At this point the show has started off great but these guys really raised the bar and the energy level and packed the large stage area.

A gritty, three piece band with obvious roots in blues and rock. A few seconds into this one and I started to wonder if I had over consumed the Hamm's beer because I was pretty sure Hank from Breaking Bad was on stage singing and playing the harmonica. (I guess that explains why he won't be on Better Call Saul) The distraction of Hank being undercover didn't last too long though thanks to a killer sounding cigar box guitar with a perfect drum beat keeping it all together. 

The Calamity Cubes
Queue the mosh pit. The Calamity Cubes hit the stage with a furry, like a bunch of drunken pilots taking their aggressions out on their instruments. These guys are fast and furious and hit you like a speeding Porsche careening into a tree.(too soon?) One thing was for sure, the band was on fire and the crowd's energy wouldn't die.

Molly Gene One Whoaman Band
I'm still wondering if her name is paying homage to the poetry of Mike Myers' character in So I Married An Axe Murderer. By this point the cheap food and even cheaper beer and starting to make me think nap but one look onto the stage reveals the most energetic person in the building, hell maybe the most energetic person in downtown Chicago. With her shaking head, aggressive playing and a foot stomp that rivals Guliver she forced her energy into the crowd and busted her kick drum pedal all at once. Not to fear, just as cheap beer would bring me back down, a little wire would fuse the pedal back together good enough to finish this one out.

Cletus Got Shot
Coming into this weekend I hadn't heard a great amount of Cletus Got Shot music (after the set I purchased every album and anything else I could) but enjoyed all I had previously encountered. Based on my past listening and knowing that this was a onetime reunion show before the three guys slipped back into retirement, I had a feeling this was a must see show. Must see it definitely was. From the first chord strike all the way through the end it was obvious these guys were a tight group musically and the hiatus they had taken didn't interfere with their ability to bust out a kick ass show one bit. Other than an exploding suitcase bass guitar (luckily another musician came to the rescue with a loner) a few songs into the set they were flawless and had moved the already high bar up several notches.

Hellbound Glory
Even though Hellbound Glory was listed one the schedule, Leroy Virgil was solo on this trip but Leroy is the sound and attitude of Hellbound Glory and carried the scumbag torch loud and proud to a packed crowd as the last performer on the smaller stage. Strumming his way around the highlights of his own catalogue and kicking in a few wonderfully presented covers, Leroy packed a punch swift enough to knock the drunkest of patrons into the next room to finish the night out.
PPJ

A masterful musician regardless the instrument and a high spirited individual that had the ability to bring everyone to the highest of highs but bring them down to the point of hearing a pin drop whether it was with his playing or his voice during or between songs. Completely going off the cuff and making it work so smooth you'd swear he had been planning this all out in his head for months. Nothing could stop the outpouring of talent and emotion, not even a busted banjo string (which he laid down and said that anyone who could string and tune a banjo was free to come up and get in and fix it during the show) could kill the moment for what was probably the largest crowd for any act on day one.

The Gallows are a band beyond a proper description (not that I'm not gonna try) but if I must, imagine if a large group of circus performers and sideshow acts spent their free time becoming master musicians. Shit, I think I did it! By this time, it's late and everyone has to be tired (I know I was nearly in a low grade hops, greasy cheeseburger coma) but you'd never had known it by the reaction the crowd had to the energy The Gallows were pouring out. The band played harder with each song and the crowd jumped and thrashed into each other nonstop during the entire set. Things were thrown in both directions, water was spit and spirits were high. Nearly everyone in the crowd looked as if they could go for several more hours and this was the perfect band to end night one.

Saturday

I can't believe I'm awake and made it back to Reggie's before 11:00 am. I'm too old for this but I've got my buffet bracelet on for day two and decided bourbon would be the way to go today. Good idea? I don't remember…. Good thing I kept taking notes about each act.

Tony French
Nothing like a bratwurst, bourbon and the blues in the morning to get the body rolling. The bar provided the first two and Tony French more than accommodated my need for the third with his strong riffs and low bluesy voice presenting several covers and a few originals with that guy from Under The Dome coming up to lend his harmonica skills on a few tunes as well.

Jeff Shepherd and the Jailhouse Poets
Three words to describe this group: WOW, WOW, WOW! Awesome writing, playing and vocal all coming together to possibly be the best band at the festival so far and it's only 11:50 am. Not only was the band superb but Jeff performed solo at the end and pretty much blew everyone away with his song that I believe is title Daddy Loved You More Than Life Itself. If you're not familiar with this group, what are you waiting on? Me personally, I'm just waiting to find an album to play nonstop.

Super high energy group of guys with a knack for performing live. The entire crowd was really getting into the set which featured some hardcore, upbeat picking and well thought out lyrics. Everyone was moving and enjoying the show from start to finish.

I was really looking forward to seeing these guys based on the recorded music that I had already heard and the countless videos I has streamed online and I had a feeling they would be a fun band to watch but I had no idea what I was in for. Not only was The Imperial Rooster the funnest band to watch over the entire weekend but they may have also been the best showmen at the entire festival. They performed as if they were in front of thousands of people but unfortunately they had one of the smallest crowds at the larger stage. Regardless of the small crowd, the people that were there packed in near the stage and knew they had witnessed the do not miss show of the weekend. I've got a good feeling that not only will The Imperial Rooster be back next year but they will also enjoy a much larger crowd. How could you not bring back a band that uses a road cone as a musical instrument?

Matt Woods
I feel sorry for Matt Woods because since I had five different people come up to me and start conversations with me thinking I was him and I'm sure he gets tired of people saying "Hey, aren't you Jeremy from Farce The Music?" Poor guy, probably burns him up when that happens. Even his drummer almost came up to me thinking I was him… by the way, Matt has a drummer now. Matt came onto the large stage pretty early (around 2:30 pm) and brought in a pretty good crowd for his set. He managed to provide the set everyone would hope for as he swept his way through several songs from his (at the time) upcoming album and left the crowd speechless with his critically acclaimed (Trailer liked it, so it's critically acclaimed) single Deadman's Blues and left everyone wanting more.

Filthy Still
I'm beginning to think these guys are stingy. They made my list of top live shows from 2013 and I think they thought they could get another mention this year. Hell, I think they may. This was one badass set and somehow the guys seemed to have a tighter sound now than they did last time I caught them live. Must've been real tight for me to remember it after two days of greasy food, cheap beer and only the finest bourbon.
They also have made me waste countless hours trying to find Sasquatch bones. So while they may be an awesome band, they can be blamed for this writeup not getting finished closer to the festival conclusion.

Last False Hope
This band caught me so off guard last year and really blew me away. Could it happen again or would I be prepared? From the moment Robert Dean walked onto the stage to introduce the band there was a feeling that this could be something special. He announced that frontman Jahshie P would be dedicating this performance to his stepdad who had recently passed and that Jahshie's mom was in attendance. From the moment the band took the stage there was an obvious amount of emotion exuding from all of them and many in the crowd as well but they pulled it all together and delivered a great show. As the band played on and the boom of the bass drum shook the building emotion sat in once more as Jahshie told of his family's loss and the strength of his mother and pulled it together to perform another song. Part way through the song, Robert Dean (a head writer at moonrunnerscountry.com) and Chris Miller (host of Blue Ribbon Radio) stormed the stage from the back and began to jump and sing into the microphone with the band. After the song ended and as the next song was beginning Jahshie called for anyone in the crowd to jump onto the stage to join them but just don't mess up an equipment. I could hear people in the crowd talking and trying to figure out if this was legit and they could really get up there as he kept insisting during the song to rush the stage. Very few took him up on this and then next thing I know Robert Dean was reaching down to me and pulling me onto the stage. Honestly at first I was unsure about this but figured it was a good way to advertise the farcethemusic.com shirt I was wearing. (available at http://www.redbubble.com/people/trailerparkman/shop in case you were wondering) Actually I was just to drunk to fight him off but I'm glad it turned out the way it did in the end as my wife, several friends and even more strangers made this a show that at least we will always remember.

Whiskey Dick
It's not very often you can find two guys that can sit in chairs on a stage with acoustic guitars and blow you away with their playing and their overall energy but that is exactly what these two did. I'm still completely unsure how the sounds I was hearing were being produced by what looked to be a normal flattop guitar. Overall this may have been one of the biggest surprises of day two as they tore through their time on stage with great vocals, great lyrics and unbelievable instrumentation. If these two had more people with them they'd be unstoppable.

Guess what. Those two guys in Whiskey Dick are now unstoppable…. and standing up on the stage with several more members. This may have been the craziest show of day two and 100% the craziest and most packed show on the smaller stage. A ridiculously badass sound, a crowd that was asking for every beat to be delivered harder than the last and a lead singer who  was nuts. He would fall forward off of the stage during a song and allow the fans up front to push, beat and knock him back on! If you ever want to see what stage energy is all about, get to a Black Eyed Vermillion show.

Fifth on the Floor
From talking to several people that were returning to the festival from last year, this was the most anticipated show of the weekend this year. Many were blown away by last year's performance and were in for a great show once again. Fifth on the Floor has changed immensely since last year's MoonRunners not only by switching out two of the members but also by maturing musically. The sound has changed and the overall attitude and direction of the band has taken a more upward trajectory in twelve short months but could they raise the bar for people that had been waiting a year for this? Hell yes, and other than a couple that were "engaging in their own activities" above the stage to the side, I'd say they had everyone's attention. (a few may have been listening but catching a more extreme performance higher up) In case you didn't figure it out, some dude was giving it to a chick during a large portion of the set. Honestly though the real performance was on the stage (that's a lie but I had a horrible angle) and the crowd was treated to many FOTF songs that didn't exist this time last year and a few other surprises (bukaki? No, get your mind out of the gutter.) including when the band stepped off the stage and allowed Joshua Morningstar to come up with his guitar and do an original song. Josh is definitely a talented guy to keep an eye on and deserves to be performing in his own slot next year. Another great moment came at the end of the set when lead man Justin Wells brought Adam Lee and Matt Woods up to join the band and perform The Highwaymen classic "Highwayman" by trading off verses along with FOTF Jason Parsons. This was something that everyone will remember for some time to come except for the one drunk guy that came up to me afterwards and said I did a good job up there with "them fellas from Kentucky and that other guy doing that Traveling Wilburys song". And I thought I had drank a bunch.

I've been a Roger Alan Wade fan for years and couldn't wait to see him perform but was unsure how it would be. I've heard many of his recorded songs and knew he swayed back and forth from sad to funny and also listen to his SiriusXM show often. The first thing that impressed me with Roger was his guitar playing ability. I'm not sure if it's that his lyrics are so ear catching that I've overlooked this before or if he just doesn't showcase it enough on cd but he's way better in that field than I had ever expected. The rest of the show also exceeded every expectation from telling jokes to soundcheck his mike to performing flawless cover songs. The best part of the Roger Alan Wade show actually came a few days after the festival when it was announced that he had requested to return in 2015. My calendar is marked and my stomach is already aching from the thought of cheap food and even cheaper beer.

Scott H. Biram
Scott H(oobastank) Biram
And the award for drunkest coherent person in attendance goes to…… Mr Biram. Luckily Scott is a funny drunk and also one of the people that can flawlessly play and sing while being under the influence. The performance was top notch and exactly what you'd want to get from a Biram show as he played the old, the new and put his own twist on some great covers. When unforeseen circumstances caused Shooter Jennings to have to miss this year I'm sure Scott was near if not at the top of the replacement list and he made whoever made that decision look like a genius.

I would personally like to thank Jahshie P, Robert Dean, Jody Robbins and everyone else at moonrunnerscountry.com along with the staff at Reggie's and all the bands that made this a special weekend for everyone in attendance. Most of all I would like to say that the hardest part of this entire thing was being there without my good friend Robert Earl Reed because I know how much being included in this meant to him. See you next year Chicago!

May 1, 2013

Festival Rundown: Moonrunners, Chicago, IL



By Jeremy Harris
(Non-editor's note: This is so long and interesting, I'm not going to bother editing. Blame any mistakes on Jeremy's intake at Moonrunners! -Trailer)

Before any details were even released for the Moon Runners Fest I was already full of excitement just imagining who I thought would probably be there. Many of the acts I was hoping for ended up being announced as time passed on. Many others I never would've thought of along with several I had previously overlooked also helped round out an overpacked one day lineup of some of the finest underground and quickly rising talent out today. The event took place at Reggie's in beautiful downtown Chicago. Reggie's is actually made up of several places (rock club, merchandise shop, record store, rock club, rooftop bar, and music joint) that are separated just enough to prevent sound from mixing from one stage to the other. The biggest downfall of MRF was the fact that some acts overlapped each other and you couldn't catch it all. I did however hear enough music to appease me for some time to come and of course I'm only going to provide commentary on the acts that I could get enough of a show to get a proper feel for. The following are my thoughts on these bands in the order I was able to watch them.

Carmen Lee
Carmen Lee and the Tomorrow River Two
These talented folks were the perfect band to get things started at 11:00 am. Carmen has a strong voice and look that instantly takes you back to the days of the 50's rockabilly queens of the past. Her fast pace and varied vocal range along with the old timey sound and aura provided by her bandmates got all those lucky enough to arrive early in the move around and drink beer mode. Instantly I knew I had made a wise decision to drive 6-1/2 hours one way.

The Dirty Generals
If you like a strong sounding edge of country with good rock beats mixed in kind of band, you'll dig The Dirty Generals. They have a very strong sound that doesn't sound like anyone else but has influences from southern rock of the past that really filled up the smaller music joint stage quite well and had most people at least tapping a toe. While the overall sound was great, there wasn't any one lyric or song that grabbed me but unfamiliarity is probably the most to blame for that.


Lonewolf OMB
I had some past experience of Lonewolf in the form of two tracks in my iTunes library and knowing he was a one man band. It didn't take long to be impressed by him and realize the recordings I have don't do a bit of justice to his talent. His growling voice and exceptional guitar and banjo playing are really something to marvel at. His voice lends itself to the blues as well as anyone else you'll ever find while his overall stage presence and energy would be hard to rival. In the end you're left with a feeling of amazement and thrill for what just took place.

Aran Buzzas
One man and his guitar laying it all out for everyone to enjoy. Ranging from low down classic sound to catchy tunes that are on the verge of comedy. Aran had the ability to have at least one song everyone could relate to in one way or another. I probably heard at least 3 people say "I think that song is about me" throughout his performance. I was lucky enough to talk to Aran before and after his show and he comes off as a genuine guy that's very happy just to be doing what he loves. He seemed to appreciate every person that said hello and every merchandise sale he made. I was lucky to purchase Aran's album that became available that very day at the festival. I've yet to listen to it but my hopes are high.

Ol' Red Shed (changed name to Coondog & The Stumpjumpers at some point between the schedule printing and their performance)
This is the band you've never heard of that could make an impact on FM county radio. The first thing I noticed was a superb country music voice mixed with superb instrumentation. The second thing was some of the country cliches we all know so well. While it wasn't overbearing, it was there. Fortunately I don't remember a single truck mention but there were a few name drops and this is how country I am moments. Overall they have the sound and hopefully get a shot at growing with their careers. Catch a show if they get close to you.

Pearls Mahone
Pearls was on the smaller music joint stage and also recording an album live at the festival of her set. As soon as I heard and saw her I was reminded of the movie Crybaby and some of the female characters in the movie. A super strong and classic voice that kept me entertained as I had my first of many run-ins with the Reggie's $10 all you can eat buffet while sitting at the bar. The crowd response was awesome and I'm sure that will help make the live recording that much better.

Robert Dean
I was lucky enough to talk to Robert a few times before he jumped on stage for his spoken word set. A great guy that was pretty nervous leading up to his first performance ever. After talking to him, there was no way I wouldn't be in the front for this. Robert came out and hit it out of the park all the way through his set. My opinion may be influenced some by the fact that I agreed with nearly all his rants and raves but I do believe even if you didn't agree, you would've been entertained by his numerous stories and life experiences that occupied the gaps between the rants and raves. I came away from MRF with two things from Robert Dean: an autographed novel for my wife and an appreciation for anyone who can speak their mind in front of drunk strangers and make them into his friends.

Last False Hope
Last False Hope
I'm going to be honest. I have probably heard every Last False Hope song that has been released to the public. I wasn't a fan of most of it but had a feeling they would be special live but I had no idea of what was about to take place. I like to think I have a pretty broad taste in music and have been to countless shows and festivals at arenas, bars, amphitheaters, state parks, houses, schools, stadiums, garages and bowling alleys to see everything from (heavy metal band) Lamb of God to the crappiest pop acts available and everything in between. Take all of that into consideration and then add this newly discovered fact. Last False Hope is THE GREATEST LIVE ACT I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED. You don't expect a band that is being led by a mandolin player and contains a banjo and fiddle to kick your ass quite so hard but it sneaks upon you quickly. What are these guys anyways? Bluegrass/metal, country/punk or just alt country? Who cares! It is real music that is coming from the heart and not trying to fit some stupid corporate mold. I probably asked 20 people after the festival was over who their favorite act was and all but one said Last False Hope without hesitation. If you've never been lucky enough to catch a show you need to change that as soon as possible. From the moment the band takes the stage to the very end, they throw down like they will never have another chance. My damn neck still hurt from thrashing my brains around like a maniac. One of the cooler moments of the whole festival may have been when Nellie Wilson joined Last False Hope on stage for a song that will be on their upcoming album and blowed everyone away. Good lord this woman can sing. Damn do I wish her solo performance on the Record Breakers (this is the name of the record store that is a part of Reggie's that was home to some of the smaller acts) floor didn't overlap Fifth on the Floor so I could have caught her show.

Owen Mays & The 80 Proof Boys
It would be hard to find a better group of musicians than the individuals assembled on the stage during this performance. Owen traveled the road between county and bluegrass with violent swerves in both directions. My only complaint from this particular show would be that the group's energy doesn't always match their talent but very few acts would be able to achieve the level of energy that would require.

T. Junior
T. Junior
I was lucky enough to meet T. Junior before his show and he is such a nice guy. He also was probably the third or fourth person to recognize me from my twitter profile picture. I'm still uncertain what this says about my looks but I have a pretty good idea that it's not a good thing. Once "The Man In Gray" was on the stage his talent was overwhelming. A great guitar player with a soft yet powerful voice whom had the ability to mimic his album sound nearly perfectly while interacting with the crowd between every song and maintain a very strong stage presence, especially for an acoustic guitar act with no backing band.


Fifth on the Floor
My award for greatest moment of the entire night goes to Fifth on the Floor and lead singer Justin Wells for a special tribute to Mr. George Jones. Justin walked onto the stage along with his acoustic guitar and softly stated. "Yesterday my favorite country singer of all time passed away. Let's all take a moment of silence for George Jones." Then something magical happened. Justin sang a song I've heard him do several times, (although never quite like this) "Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes" by Mr. Jones and bring countless individuals to tear including myself and Wells. This was definitely the most powerful and heartfelt cover version I've heard of any song in a long time. As soon as the song ended, the band joined him on stage for a very powerful performance of their song "Burning Nashville Down" which ended with lead guitarist Matt Rodgers rendering his slide guitar useless for the night with a broken string. Overall this was the best of several FOTF shows I have attended. I could tell the band knew this was a very important show for them and everyone in the building. One guy standing near me had traveled from Georgia mainly to see FOTF for the first time and I overheard a few others say they had never heard of them before but were buying every album at their merch table after the show.

CW Ayon
Due to an overlapping schedule I was unable to catch much of this show but what I did take away was the fact that this man has a great blues voice and can play the guitar as well as any other you'll find. Several people were raving about his performance afterwards and throughout the night.


Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band
You would really have to dig deep to find a group of performers that could all just stand shoulder to shoulder on a stage and deliver kickass music any better than this fine group of individuals. From the very beginning it was a take no prisoners approach that never wore down. Unfortunately this was also the point in the night where the $10 buffet started rearing its ugly head. Through this, I also found out there was a larger amount of people between me and the restroom than expected. After resting my legs in Reggie's restroom that has some crappy black lights in all the fixtures, I realized there was no chance of me returning to my spot at the front of the stage for this show but I had enough of an encounter to know I'll try to catch another show of their's as soon as I can.


The Calamity Cubes
The bathroom trip wasn't a waste of time after all since the Music Joint Stage had just welcomed the Calamity Cubes and also offered a place to sit without a hole in the middle of the seat. I could quickly tell that these guys love music and hate their instruments. Man did they abuse those things with a violent display of energy that fit the smaller performing area perfectly and had the crowd jumping. They also weren't far from that damn buffet table that was calling my name again. I call that a win/win situation.

Hellbound Glory
Somehow I was able to make my way back to the front of the stage at this point just in time for T. Junior to find me and ask for directions to the buffet and an overly hydrated female to attempt to lick my eyeballs. (Yep, people like her make it to every festival) The crowd quickly made their way back to the stage with little time to spare before the band took the stage. Leroy Virgil and the band played nearly every song a fan would want to hear. (Unless you were that one drunk asshole that kept yelling "Malt Liquor" like a stuck record) The most amazing thing about the band's time on stage was probably the fact that they had just met their bassist for the show that day and he kept up quite well. My only complaint is that they all seemed a little tired and were lacking proper energy but Leroy's songwriting skills compensate for a lot in my opinion.

Banjer Dan
"Banjer" Dan Mazer made the most of his night. Not only was he one of the 80 Proof Boys joining Owen Mays on stage but he also used his time on the Record Breakers floor as a performance/banjo course with Q & A between songs. Dan is a superb banjo player and comes off as a very nice individual as well. He also kind of looks like Cecil from that Adam Sandler movie "Mr Deeds".

Scott H. Biram
If you ever need proof that stage presence and energy do not require moving around or even standing look no further than the "Dirty One Man Band from Texas". The power that comes from this man and his equipment is nothing short of amazing. The crowd was absolutely nuts during his whole show. At one point  a (I'm sure she's just lovely) fine young lady tossed a beer onto the stage near Scott and his equipment. He made a slight remark during the song and then afterwards simply stated "Throw a beer at my $10,000 music equipment again and I'll kick your ass you big tittied bitch". Ok, maybe that wasn't so simple after all. Security quickly rushed the stage to grab the woman but Scott lied and said he had taken care of it and she had left while she continued to stand in the front row but held her drink a little tighter. Mr. Biram continued to amaze everyone as he jumped from song to song and guitar to guitar while not missing a single beat and making the best of his time. The show ended with Scott flipping a switch that caused a repeat of a mid range frequency that pounded the crowd. One last middle finger and exit stage right.

Shooter Jennings
11:00 says the schedule. Kiss my ass schedule says Shooter. Oh well, I've been standing for 12 hours so what's another 47 minutes waiting and leaning on the barricade separating me and the stage. Shooter and his current band entered the stage to a massive roar of the packed crowd and kicked the night off with "Hard Lesson To Learn" from his latest album before running though some of the songs off of his older albums and keeping a great mix of songs throughout the night.

The amount of energy Shooter maintained through his set (after he had walked around in the crowd most the night) was only rivaled by the extremely drunk lady that was screaming his name the whole time while trying to offer him a drink. God am I glad he didn't give in and take it unless that would've shut her up. In that case, damn you Shooter for not shutting her up. Just as you would think it can't get any cooler than this Shooter starts in on "The White Trash Song" and is joined by Scott H. Biram just in time for Scott's verse in the song. Then just like that they were gone. No Scott, Shooter or a band. All gone! It's over. Oh wait, I almost forgot I'm up front and can see the setlist which has five more songs listed. And........ they are back. Shooter takes his place at the keyboard and does a great performance of "Wake Up" from the Black Ribbons album which included every last sound effect played live by mostly Shooter himself and rolled right into "Sweet Savannah". A few more great songs and then, POW! "The Gunslinger" is blasting in my face. Live! This song sounds so cool live and really picks up at the end with Shooter at one time playing his guitar, keyboard and some sort of synthesizer type thing all at once. The bass was hitting so hard the building was shaking and my entire body was pounding as the entire crowd joined me in a frenzy. After leaving the stage the crowd exited the room quite quickly and I was lucky enough to get invited backstage to meet Shooter and talk for a short time. Shooter is 100% a super nice guy and luckily has a good sense of humor. (making fun of him on FTM through several postings is what got me invited back to begin with.) He was nice enough to introduce me to his wife and tattoo artist friend and show me the awesome tattoo he's in the process of on his back (Trailer, start photo shopping your guesses now).

A few things I gathered from the show:
While the debate over whether rock is dead or not will go on, one thing that is evident is the fact that the soul of the punk rock fan was alive and well in Chicago on this day. No matter what genre terminology you would like to use to classify these artist as, one thing is certain: There was definitely a youthful angst amongst most the acts and fans no matter the age or geographical place of dwelling. While the types of music displayed at the event differed greatly in sound from each other they all share a common bond of being real and from the heart. I doubt we have witnessed the last of not only the festival, but also several of the acts performing at this great display of quality over commercialism. Countless times I heard the phrase "We will all be bragging about being here for year one at Moon Runners Festivals for years to come." According to Robert Dean, this will cause us all to be hipsters in a few years. And to the dude from Georgia with the backpack, we all know it was you farting all night up front at the Rock Club Stage.

While some memories of MRF1 (as us hipsters to be call it) may fade, some things I'll never forget are the friends I have gained, the soreness of my feet after being on them for 14 hours and $10 for a 14 hour buffet is a good idea that night but not so much the next morning.

My apologies to:
Lou Shields, Nellie Wilson, Jake Cox, Possessed by Paul James, Rachel Brooke and James Hunnicutt for missing your performances this time but I hope to see you down the road.

----
Photos by Jeremy Harris
Videos by various Moonrunners attendees

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