Review: The Glorious Sons, “An Unplugged Evening With (Live At Longboat Hall)”

Glorious Sons

It was during our last visit to Southern Ontario that I stumbled across a social media post by Kingston, ON rock band, The Glorious Sons, asking if fans had found their brand new, limited live acoustic vinyl album.  Wait, a live acoustic album on vinyl?  Yes, apparently so!  Talk about hitting me with many keys words to grab my attention.  Live acoustic show!  Vinyl!  The freakin’ Glorious Sons, and their amazing brand of blue collar rock n roll music!!!  We may have had a hectic weekend of live music to look forward to, but a few stops at some of our favorite records stores were quickly added to our itinerary.

Earlier this year, The Glorious Sons performed a show here in our part of Central PA, but naturally, we already had tickets to a pair of shows in Hamilton, ON, for that same weekend, and unfortunately missed the opportunity to finally catch them live.  So upon hearing of this exclusive new album, we did not want to strike out once again.  After all, for me, nothing beats the stripped down and unplugged shows that rock bands occasionally perform.  Artists such as The Trews and Matt Mays have found plenty of success with these types of shows (we have had the pleasure of attending an outstanding acoustic gig by The Trews), so knew that this album was well worth seeking out.

Needless to say, our mission was accomplished that weekend; hence this article.  Striking gold during just our second record store visit, Lady Luck clearly had a guiding hand in our good fortunes.  And did we feel bad looking at comments on that particular social media post when other fans were struggling to find it, or have their local independent stores attempt to order it?  Not at all!  This live album was found, purchased, and destined to return home with us to Central PA.

“Back in the summer we sent out invitations to some lucky TGS Union members to join us for a special unplugged performance at the beautiful Longboat Hall in Toronto,” the band state on their website. “The idea was to showcase our music in a different light, in some cases much closer to how the songs were originally conceived.”  And after spinning this one a few times over the last few weeks, certain tunes do indeed have a much more intimate sound than their popular rock radio original versions. “When you spend 2/3rds of your life playing in venues at 120 decibels, sometimes it’s nice to break things down,” offers lead vocalist Brett Emmons.  “This was a moment for us and our fans to take a breath and feel the songs in another light.”

Opening with their popular hit, “White Noise,” a track found on their impressive 2014 debut album, “The Union”, the gentle piano keys and soothing acoustic guitar are a complete contrast to the thumping drumbeat and loud electric guitars normally associated with this tune.  Moreover, it is the genteel pace and delivery that grabs your attention; a beautiful, slow burner that truly allows the listener to discover a different interpretation of the song.  The song still oozes with the band’s hard, yet ‘Heartland’ inspired, brand of Southern Rock, but in this particular environment, Brett’s grungy, throaty vocals are no longer competing with the bands normally amped-up sounds.

Naturally, with the phenomenal success of their 2017 sophomore full length “Young Beauties And Fools” release, The Glorious Sons share plenty of their rock-radio friendly hits taken from this album at The Longboat Hall.  With acoustic renditions of “Josie,” “S.O.S (Sawed Off Shotgun),” and “My Poor Heart,” (complete with a tale of the origins of this song from Brett), it is only the decibel meter that is toned down here, unlike the relentless energy displayed throughout the show.  I strongly suggest paying extra attention to the acoustic re-worked version of “Come Down,” which absolutely blew me away during the first spin of this album.  I always associated this track with a positive spin on issues of drug culture and dependency, but oh, how wrong I was when absorbing this stripped, slow-burning version, and its potent message about the damages, not glorification, of addition.  This one leaves a lump in my throat with each and every spin.

There are a couple of unreleased songs that The Glorious Sons inject into their set list for this show, and both are absolutely stunning.  “I Want Ya” ebbs and flows through moments of 4:4 time, with passionate vocal and instrumental bursts during the chorus, and the rare inclusion of an electrified six string down the stretch.  “It’s about Odessa in the springtime, where I grew up,” Brett shares. “It’s kind of a portrait of what I wish my high school career was like.”  Offered by Brett as a tune also currently unreleased, he acknowledges that “One Church Town” is a deeply personal tale written about his mother and father.  “Two kids in the yard and another on the way / She’s sitting by her mother’s side begging her to stay / There was talk that you shoulda sued the chemical plant / But there wasn’t no price that could bring her back.”  Such a powerful and deep reflection on the harsh realities of life, this tune is perfectly delivered in this unplugged setting.

Saving their absolute best until last, The Glorious Sons close their show with “Amigo.”  Running just a little over eight minutes in length, the cocktail-lounge piano introduction earns quick applause from the room, setting the pace and summoning Brett to the microphone for the opening verses.  The serene vocal and piano duet plays out as expected, at least up until around the 3:30 mark, where the gradual inclusion of some slide acoustic guitar action prompts some Trews-like inspired handclaps, harmonies, and the melodic southern rock balladry that guarantees your return to this one once the vinyl stops spinning.  Another phenomenal live show that has been captured for eternal listening pleasures, and one that is definitely a worthwhile addition to your music collection.  There are copies out there to be found – good luck in your search – you won’t be disappointed.

 

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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