Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
The Coal Men are Dave Coleman, Dave Ray, and Paul Slivka. They have been together 17 years and both Coleman and Ray are founding members. This is their 5th full length released and it is a good one. I had never heard of them prior to this album, and that is a shame. These guys are another band that are too good not to be recognized. It seems they are “musician’s musicians”, as Coleman is well respected in the ranks of Americana. This just shouldn’t be. Based on their material, The Coal Men should be well known. Unfortunately, the music industry is tough and isn’t exactly fair.
The title Pushed to the Side is a very interesting title considering Dave Coleman’s fears of his music not being sexy enough for widespread media coverage. I hope this isn’t the case as Pushed to the Side is a wonderful album. It has plenty of well written songs, good vocals, and plenty of haunting guitar riffs throughout each track. This release is definitely a slight departure from earlier albums, which sees the trio playing more ambient and atmospheric tunes. Most songs are not fast tempo or excessively high energy, but they are catchy and infectious. The two exceptions are The Payoff and Speeding Like a Demon which are quite rocking numbers.
Willy Jet (Track 4) is a great tune. Definitely reminiscent of John Prine. Not necessarily the vocals, but the song construction and writing seems like a song Prine could have written and sung himself. Willy Jet is a song about a hard drinking vagabond who tries to change his ways but can’t really do it. The lyrics are quite vivid and you can really see Willy Jet in your mind’s eye thanks to the descriptive lyrics: “A child at play, expectation and regret, those were the ways of Wanderin’ Willy Jet”. Excellent songwriting and smart lyrics that still leaves something for the imagination. With other standouts, such as Depreciate (Track 1) and Stones River (Track 11 – watch video here), this album will have real staying power. Git yer copy when it is released on August 19th!