“I’m the king of Music Row,” says Ike Reilly. Standing on the stoop of his recording studio with his arms wide open, the songwriter claims the whole street as his musical kingdom. For the former gravedigger and doorman, Music Row is just one house. It’s the 100-year-old bungalow wedged between a nail salon and an insurance agency in Libertyville, Illinois. This is where Reilly now makes his records.
Libertyville is about 38 miles north of Chicago, and it’s the hometown of Marlon Brando, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Adam Jones of Tool, Maureen Herman of Babes in Toyland, and many other successful artists and musicians. These folks have all fled town. Reilly never left. He has lived there his entire life, and he has churned out song after song, album after album, all the while maintaining a seemingly together family life and touring America both as a lone troubadour and while leading his greasy band, The Ike Reilly Assassination. While Libertyville certainly appears idyllic, the stories that Reilly mines from it, and from people and places all over the world, clearly are not. Tom Morello, also a Libertyville native, says, “These homogeneous Midwestern towns like Libertyville can forge rebels, and Ike Reilly is just that. He’s somebody who sees through the veil of bullsh*t, and you can hear it in all his songs.”
Since his explosive major label debut, Salesmen and Racists, Reilly has been creating rebellious punk/folk/country/blues-influenced rock ’n’ roll records that are poetic and cinematic. Critical praise for his work has been plentiful, and he has garnered a wildly loyal fan base -- from faithful fans in the dirty bars and rock clubs in the middle of nowhere to legendary authors. Reilly’s songs have a unique universality that affects people. Author Stephen King wrote that Reilly’s travel band saga, “Boltcutter,” was “the best new song to come out of the Trump era.” The New York Times called Reilly’s longtime band, The Assassination, one of the best live bands in America, and once again they show their dexterity and growth on Reilly’s new offering, Because the Angels.
This compelling batch of new Reilly songs/tales required both a lighter touch and a ferocity that mirror the depth of Reilly’s writing and the varied nature of his songs. On “Ashes to Ashes,” the band slams away and yet still holds down the groove to this Ray-Charles-on-speed track. As the band rocks, rolls, and rumbles, Reilly sings of the cursed and the blessed, the loved and the hurt, and he assures us that nobody escapes death. Sure, it’s dark, but ya might die trying not to move to this track.