NancyInHellOnEarth-00BNancy in Hell (on Earth), written by El Torres with art by Enrique Lorenzana, is the awesome sequel to the excellent Nancy In Hell, created by El Torres and Juan Jose Ryp. The 4-issue sequel was published by Image Comics in 2012, and collected in trade paperback form later that same year.

In Nancy In Hell, Nancy Simmons, a former cheerleader who was wrongly cast into Hell by design, helped Lucifer, a whining crybaby who feels bad for being responsible for evil, escape to Earth to atone for his sins. However, they forgot to close the doors behind them, and, now, Hell is spilling onto Earth; and, Nancy must save the world with only her big boobs, Daisy Dukes and a badass chainsaw! Nancy In Hell (on Earth) is more glorious, guilty-pleasurable joy! But, an added bonus, in this sequel, are the covers and other promo art that are like grindhouse-inspired movie posters. Awesome!

In Chapter 1, Pytho (aka Mr. Macabre) ventures into the very heart of Hell. “Darkness, hear me!” he calls, then summarizes Nancy In Hell. “Don’t I d-d-deserve the Earthrealm?” he asks. “YES” is the reply. Meanwhile, Lucifer finds that he is powerless to stop the demons from pouring onto Earth because he and Nancy are, now, merely human. However, Nancy still has her trusty chainsaw which she uses to slice up the demons. They join a group of human survivors, including Bible-quoting cop Irving, who have taken refuge at the San Diego Convention Center, while the military is confronted by nearly naked vengeful angels who call humans “monkeys.” Best line: “You were grabbing her boobs! And they totally look like my own boobs!” Nancy tells Lucifer, after a succubus took her form and tried to seduce him. “She’s fatter than me, though,” she adds. “Cut it out, Succubitch!” Nancy quips as she slices the evil vixen in half with her chainsaw.

In Chapter 2, Nancy, Lucifer and the survivors escape the Convention Center via a school bus but are, soon, forced to take refuge at the San Diego Central Jail. Lucifer tries to save Satan-worshipping inmate Szandor and his eleven death row cons, while naked apocalyptic angels Sandalphon and Gabrielle try to convince Lucifer to help them destroy mankind. “They are wicked. They refuse the gifts given by God,” Sandalphon rationalizes. “I shall not speak with you anymore,” Lucifer tells Sandalphon, before Nancy unleashes her chainsaw upon her. However, now they must worry about being nuked. Best line #1: “She said Internet. What the fuck is the Internet?” demands Nancy (who was killed in 1985). Best line #2: “Is that an angel of the Lord?” Irving wonders upon seeing Sandalphon. “That or a naked, winged, anorexic model fluttering around here like a moth,” Nancy quips.

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In Chapter 3, Mr. Macabre proposes an alliance with Nancy and Lucifer to stop the naked vengeful angels from destroying the planet. He tells them they can do so by closing Heaven’s Gate which isn’t far. Meanwhile, the angels seize the nukes and plan to combine them with an angelic weapon to “create a wall of pure energy that will grow exponentially, destroying everything in its path.” Lucifer rallies the twelve inmates to help him. However, Mr. Macabre summons Szandor and entrusts him with the primordial shiv to deal with that “blonde pussy crying all over the place.” Lucifer, Nancy, Mr. Macabre, Irving and the inmates march over to the Wyatt and a brutal, bloody battle ensues. Best lines: “Please put these on,” an inmate says, offering Lucifer a prison jumpsuit. “Your silky loincloth… makes you look gay,” he adds. “Gay?” Lucifer wonders. “Nice rags. Finally, you don’t look so…” Nancy says, upon seeing his new outfit. “I know, gay,” Lucifer says.

In Chapter 4, Lucifer has been shived by Szandor, but, Irving kills him. Lucifer is impressed by Irving‘s faith. “Faith… is not knowledge,” Irving tells him. “Yes. Now I understand,” Lucifer smiles, and, they both die. Meanwhile, Nancy kicks naked vengeful angel Gabrielle‘s ass thinking that she’ll be able to close Heaven’s door, but Mr. Macabre reveals that he only needed her to take care of Gabrielle for him. He plans to use the angelic doomsday device to destroy Heaven’s door to allow Hell to seep through, “touching the very heights of Heaven.” However, Gabrielle wakes begins fighting with Mr. Macabre; and Nancy realizes that if Mr. Macabre wins, Hell will rule Heaven and Earth, but if Gabrielle wins, Earth will be destroyed. So, she thrusts her chainsaw into the lock in Heaven’s door and, “Everything goes boom.” Well, San Diego goes boom. Lucifer finds himself in Hell with Irving to save every soul down there, while Nancy finds herself in Heaven surrounded by angry angels. “Oh. Crap,” she says. I love when single mother Samantha, infected by hellspore sprouts courtesy of Mr. Macabre, becomes a John Carpenter‘s The Thing-esque creature and devours her son Paulie, before tough cop Janet crashes the bus they’re escaping on. The thing’s spider-like head rises from the wreckage, but Janet blasts it to oblivion with a Marine’s M16 rifle.

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I am so looking forward to the next volume Nancy In Heaven, but, that’s just wishful thinking. Finally, check out this awesome cover artwork for a match-up that, sadly, never happened …

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Nancy Simmons, Cassie Hack, Mercy Sparx, Violet Grimm, and the Ε.Α.Ζ.Υ. sorority sisters (Paige, Brittany & Jaime) … now that’s the kind of justice league I’d buy in to! Together they can fight demons, slashers, rogue angels, and zombies! More wishful thinking!

The_Midnight_Game_PosterThe Midnight Game (2013) is a surprisingly good low-budget horror film. It’s not great, nor does it suck – it’s just good, and that’s the kind of movie I prefer sometimes. Good films work, for me, because of good writing and/or good performances. The Midnight Game, directed by A.D. Calvo, comes with the latter, courtesy a cast of young actors and actresses, some familiar, some not. In addition, the film is kind of creepy, and a little bit scary, too.

The Midnight Game is based on an urban legend similar to that of the Bloody Mary game, which has influenced several horror films [Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005), Bloody Mary (2006), The Legend of Bloody Mary (2008), etc.] and TV series [Charmed ("Chick Flick", 2000), Supernatural ("Bloody Mary", 2005), The Ghost Whisperer ("Don't Try This At Home", 2007), etc.]. The Bloody Mary game involves some variation of standing in a bathroom with the lights off, looking into the mirror and repeating “Bloody Mary” three times. If you do so, an apparition will appear behind you and rip out your eyes, kill you, or say “Boo!” The Midnight Game, however, is more involved. You turn off all the lights, light a candle, write your name on a piece of paper, add a drop of your blood, place the paper outside the front door, knock on the door 22 times with the last knock occurring at exactly midnight, open the door, blow out the candle, close the door and immediately re-light the candle. By doing this, you will have summoned the “Midnight Man” and you must not let him find you. If he does, your candle will go out. You will have to re-light your candle within 10 seconds. If not, you must surround yourself in a circle of salt and stay inside the circle until 3:33 AM. If you don’t follow the rules, the “Midnight Man” will haunt you with your worst fears.

In The Midnight Game, Kaitlan (Renee Olstead) invites her friends Jenna (Valentina de Angelis) and Rose (Shelby Young) for a sleepover since her mother will be out of town. Jenna, however, invites her boyfriend Shane (Guy Wilson) and, at Rose’s urging, his friend Jeff (Spencer Daniels). Shane, who has been watching videos online, suggests that they play the “Midnight Game”. They do but, of course, they do not follow the rules and, soon, freaky things begin to happen. Frightened, Rose draws a circle of salt around herself and the others get inside with her. They fall asleep but wake at 3:33 when the power mysterious comes back on. The next morning, they think they’re safe and that they’ve beat the game but, apparently, the “Midnight Man” doesn’t play by his own rules. Soon, each of the group is haunted by their worst fears. Jenna fears going insane, and she begins to accuse her friends of doing things to her that they haven’t done; while Rose, who fears ghosts, begins to see spooky things including the demonic “Midnight Man” himself. Now, they have to figure out how to stop him from haunting them.

Watch the trailer here …

The Midnight Game, up to Rose seeing the “Midnight Man” for the first time, was a little bit better than good. The film hinted at The Evil Dead with its unleashing of a demonic force, Final Destination with that demonic force tying up loose ends, and The Blair Witch Project with its dark creepy vibe. However, the rest of the film is only just good, but, could have been much better. I would love to have seen more with each character being haunted by their individual fears. Jenna’s insanity is the most fully realized fear, but, in keeping with the Evil Dead comparison, she could have spiraled downward even further into absolute madness, or even demonic possession. Rose, too, could have experienced a little more ghostly activity for a few extra scares, while both Kaitlan and Jeff could have been given way more time to be haunted by their fears of heights and closed spaces, respectively. Those fears are kind of boring, though. If I played the game, and didn’t follow the rules, I would be haunted by spiders.

The Midnight Game clocks in at a mere 74 minutes so there’s very little time to fully develop five main characters, but, the young actors and actresses still brought them to life with what little they had to work with. Renee Olstead is the most well-known, having previously starred in the CBS sitcom Still Standing (2002-06), and had a recurring role in the ABC Family drama The Secret Life of the American Teenager (2008-13), but Shelby Young, as Rose, is who caught my attention …

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Shelby Young as Rose in The Midnight Game (2013)

The Midnight Game ends with a cameo from Robert Romanus as a prospective home buyer. Who? Robert Romanus. He played ticket scalper Mike Damone in the 1982 classic Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Damone was such a popular character that Damone, an awesome female-fronted rock band, named themselves after him.

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Not the kind of spider native to Northeastern Ohio!

Lately, my backyard patio has been invaded by several species of gigantic arachnids. I mean these spiders are so big that they feed on rodents. I find half-eaten chipmunks encased in webs nearly every morning. OK, so maybe that’s not exactly true, and, maybe the spiders are just average-sized spiders for their species – but, that doesn’t make them any less frightening. There are two kinds of these eight-legged freaks infesting my patio. First, there’s the brown, hairy ones whose webs are cloudy messes that look like cotton candy. They spin these webs between the rain gutter and the house, then sit and wait for their prey, in hiding, behind the gutter. If they venture out, and you catch their glance, they dart back so fast that you begin to wonder if you’ve even seen them in the first place. They’re like ninja spiders. Second, there’s the brightly-colored spiders with angular-shaped abdomens that spin large webs of intricate design. They spin these webs between the shrubs, then sit and wait right smack in the middle of them. If you look at them, they ignore you. They’re fearless. It was this latter kind that recently spun its web between a shrub and my daughter’s basketball post, prompting her to drag me outside to kill it for her. However, first, she had to take a picture …

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Not my daughter’s photo of the spider web on my backyard patio!

My daughter’s photo didn’t come out so well, and, she didn’t have the courage to do a re-shoot. “Kill it, Dad,” she demanded, and those three words, instantly, reminded me of when I was a child …

I had a turtle when I was five or six. It was one of those small ones that fits in the palm of your hand. I named him (or her) Gamera. Why? Well, I loved Gamera when I was a kid. Gamera is a Japanese kaiju (“giant monster”) created by movie studio Daiei in 1965 to compete with Toho‘s popular Godzilla movies. Gamera is a gigantic, jet-propelled, fire-breathing turtle. I loved the Showa-era Gamera films which, as a kid, I watched on local late-night horror shows, but, none of the 7 films produced between 1965 and 1971 thrill me much as an adult (except for the 1st one), like some of the Showa-era Godzilla films still do. However, Shusuke Kaneko‘s Heisei-era Gamera films [Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995), Gamera 2: Attack of Legion (1996), Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999)] are some of the best kaiju eiga (“giant monster movies”) ever made [especially the 2nd one, my favorite!] …

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DVD covers for the Heisei Gamera trilogy.

Shusuke Kaneko also directed one of my favorite Heisei-era Godzilla films [Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)], and other awesome films like Azumi 2: Death or Love (2005), Death Note (2006) and Death Note: The Last Name (2006). The latter two movies are brilliant adaptations of the Death Note manga starring Tatsuya Fujiwara [of Battle Royale (2000)] as Light Yagami.

The Show era, by the way, corresponds to the reign of Hirohito in Japan from 1926 to 1989, while the Heisei era is the current era in which Hirohito‘s son Akihito reigns. Japanese films are typically grouped into these eras. Check out some of my vinyl Heisei-era Gamera action figures …

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Some of my Heisei Gamera vinyl action figures.

The winged monster is Gyaos, one Gamera‘s most popular foes. Showa-era Gamera battled Gyaos in Gamera vs. Gyaos [aka Return of the Monsters] (1967); while Heisei-era Gamera fought several Gyaos in Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995). Gamera isn’t quite as revered as Godzilla, but, the giant flying turtle inspired a few. Like me. Or SoCal retro trad surf instrumental band The Phantom Surfers who covered the song played by a Japanese Ventures-esque band in a nightclub scene in Gamera (1965) on their very cool LP The Phantom Surfers Play The Songs Of The Big-Screen Spectaculars (1992). The album also included wonderful covers of “Geronimo” [from The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)], “The Beach Girls and The Monster” [from the film of the same name (1965)], and “High Wall” [from the fake movie Go Baby Go! ... or Go To Hell]. Anyway …

I loved Gamera, the kaiju, and I loved Gamera, my turtle. However, one day I found Gamera lying on his back in his terrarium. He was not moving, nor did he move when I prodded him. I began to cry. My father rushed into my room. “Gamera died!” I sobbed. My father comforted me and explained that death is part of life. He said we’ll have a funeral for Gamera to celebrate his life, then bury him in the backyard. “Afterwards, I’ll take you to Burger King for dinner,” he added. I loved Burger King as a kid, but, my father was a health and fitness fanatic, so he rarely ever took me to Burger King let alone to any other fast food joints. I wiped my tears away, and smiled. I couldn’t wait to eat a juicy Whopper at last! Suddenly, Gamera twitched, and began struggling to flip himself back over. I looked at that turtle, then glanced at my father, and, with an evil grin, I said, “Kill it, Daddy! Kill it!”

OK, so the possibility that this anecdote is true is somewhere around, well, zero. I had a turtle that I named Gamera, my father was a health nut, and, I loved Burger King (back then). However, the rest is a joke that I loved as child. I feel bad for the ruse, so here’s a true story from around the same time …

In the early 1970s, my parents couldn’t afford a color television. Yes, we had that option back then, B&W or color. I was a big fan of monster movies, as were all my friends. However, all of my friends had color TVs, and they would always talk about how their favorite monster movies looked better in color. Eventually, my father brought home our first color TV and, of course, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to see my favorite monster movies in color. However, in the 1970s, we didn’t have On Demand, DVRs, DVDs, or even videocassettes. We had to wait for the local network affiliates (on VHF) or syndicated stations (on UHF) to broadcast our favorite movies. So I waited, searching the TV guide (which came with the local newspaper) every Friday. My patience paid off when, a few months later, I found that Superhost, a local Saturday afternoon horror host, was broadcasting my most favorite monster movie the very next day. I could hardly sleep that night. The next afternoon, I watched the show only to learn The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) was made in B&W!

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The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953) in B&W!

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Don’t let her looks fool you; she’s as beautiful as she is deadly. Raised by the mercenary Dmitri, Yelena Yurkovich [aka Lin Chow] has been around death and corruption all of her life. It has been said that her real parents were killed at the hands of Dmitri himself when Yelena’s mother chose her father over Dmitri.

I mentioned scream queen Sarah French (aka Scarlet Salem) in my previous post, but, until I read about Marilyn Monroe: Zombie Hunter, I had never heard of her. I didn’t want that film to be my first time with that lovely actress, so I started looking into some of the other wonderfully bad films on her extensive resume via their delightful trailers. One film called Opposite Blood stood out. The trailer presented a low-budget mix of Hong Hong-inspired martial arts and heroic bloodshed films, like Bruce Lee meets John Woo by way of Southeast Asia.

Opposite Blood was written, directed, produced and stars Billy Xiong, a Laotian refugee turned filmmaker. The film is “about a corrupted family partnership that leads to two brothers on opposite sides.” According to IMDb, Opposite Blood was released in 2012, which leads me, once again, to wonder why I can’t find this movie to watch it! I think, soon, I’ll have to create a new category on this blog called “Movies I’ll Love But Haven’t Seen (Yet)”. Anyway, watch the trailer for Opposite Blood here …

“Your time’s up,” Sarah French (aka Scarlet Salem) warns before firing her silenced Glock 9mm. She plays Russian assassin Yelena Yurkovich whose alias is Lin Chow. I’m imagining the disappointment of her targets before they die when they realize that Lin Chow is not Asian. It must be kind of like Jerry Seinfeld‘s disappointment in “The Chinese Woman” episode of his NBC sitcom Seinfeld (1989-98), where he meets Donna Chang (Angela Dohrmann), whom he previously talked to on the phone, and learns that she’s not Chinese and that her name was shortened from Changstein! Sarah French as “Lin Chow” is but one of only two females in the main and supporting cast of Opposite Blood‘s testosterone-fueled action-fest. The other is the lovely Christina Xiong as “Brenda” …

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“Being a Hollywood movie star was her job, zombie hunter was her skill.”

Goodbye Norma Jean. Hello zombie hunter. Marilyn Monroe: Zombie Hunter is an upcoming horror/thriller/action film in which the Hollywood icon, according to writer/director Thomas J. Churchill, is being re-imagined as “a cool samurai sword-wielding, kick-ass assassin summoned by our President [John F. Kennedy] to be humanity’s last hope against zombie domination.” He adds that the film will be like Kill Bill meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Marilyn Monroe: Zombie Hunter is next in a line of historical and/or literary horror mash-ups popularized by author Seth Grahame-Smith and his novels Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009) and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter (2010). The latter, of course, was adapted into a film of the same name in 2012 [watch the trailer here]. I enjoyed that film, and I loved model/actress Erin Wasson as bad-ass vampire Vadoma! Our 16th president also killed zombies in The Asylum’s Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies (2012). Now, Marilyn Monroe gets a chance to show off her skills. Sure, Abraham Lincoln is a renowned historical figure whose many achievements helped to shape this great nation; but, Marilyn Monroe is a sexy historical figure whose figure has become legend [35-22-35, as reported by her dressmaker, with a bra size of 36D on a 5'-5.5" frame at 118 pounds].

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Hollywood’s blonde bombshell is being played by scream queen Sarah French who started out as a model/actress using the name Scarlet Salem (which she dropped in 2011). I don’t know her measurements, but, she’s appeared in movies with great titles like You’re Next 3: Pajama Party Massacre (2007), Killer Biker Chicks (2009), Incest Death Squad (2009), Strip Club Slasher (2010), Shriek of the Sasquatch! (2011), The Bitch That Cried Wolf (2014), Insectula! (2014), and Zombie Pirates (2014). Sarah French looks fantastic as the voluptuous starlet in these lovely promo shots for the film (which begins production in late 2014). I’m hoping that Thomas J. Churchill and co-writer Joe Knetter incorporate a bloody zombie twist to one of the most memorable moments in film history where Marilyn Monroe, in Billy Wilder‘s screwball comedy The Seven Year Itch (1955), stands over a sidewalk subway grate on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan as a whoosh from below blows her dress up, exposing her legs, while creepy co-star Tom Ewell leers at her. Watch that scene here or just leer, like Tom Ewell, at one of the most iconic images of the 20th century right here …

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Marilyn Monroe‘s iconic image captured during the filming of The Seven Year Itch (1955)

Now, imagine that lovely white dress, created by costume designer William Travilla, drenched in blood! I’m imaging Marilyn Monroe standing on that grate, blood-soaked and breathless, holding a samurai sword in one hand and a revolver in the other, amidst a half dozen freshly dead zombies. Soon, the subway passes by below, blowing up her dress, and she coos as the cool breeze cools her down. But, that’s just me.

Thomas J. Churchill previously directed Lazarus: Day of the Living Dead [watch the trailer here] which is slated for release on September 9, 2014. The retro-zombie film, set in 1957, involves insurance investigators, cigarette companies and, of course, zombies. The film won “Best Horror Film” and “Best Make-Up” at the 2014 New York City International Film Festival. Thomas J. Churchill was also featured on an episode of Syfy’s short-lived reality series Monster Man (2012) in which he hired special effects artist Cleve Hall to make a werewolf costume for his film Hallow Pointe [watch the trailer here]. Monster Man, which ran for only 6 episodes, was a cool show. Cleve Hall has made a lot of awesome B-movie monsters, as well as a lovely punk daughter, Constance Hall!

Anyway, I’ll be looking forward to Marilyn Monroe: Zombie Hunter. What about you?

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This is my friend Steve (on the left) at ComicCon 2013 in Columbus, OH. He thinks he’s Superman …

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Steve and his hero Vash the Stampede (from the anime Trigon) [Vash is not me!]

This is Steve on the Epic Slip ‘N’ Slide at Ohio Dreams Adult Week 2014 in Butler, OH. He thinks he can fly …

“Fly fatass! Fly!”, by the way, is shouted by Jay (Jason Mewes) to Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) in Kevin Smith‘s Mallrats (1995) in an attempt to destroy the local mall’s stage for Brodie (Jason Lee) and T.S. (Jeremy London) so that a game show called Truth or Date can’t go on and T.S. can get back together with his girlfriend Brandi (Claire Forlani), a contestant on the show. The Urban Dictionary, because of that film, defines the phrase as “to send your overweight friend on a daredevil assignment.” Watch the scene from Mallrats here …

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Jamison Road: Brent Duersch, Jennifer DePalma, Laurie Heltsley

Jamison Road is a “rockin’ country” band from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. They are Jennifer DePalma (vocals), Brent Duersch (guitar) and Laurie Heltsley (bass). They cite Sugarland as one of their biggest influences, and, if you listen to Jamison Road, it’s obvious. Jennifer Depalma has more in common with Jennifer Nettles than just the same given name – she, like Nettles, has an amazingly powerful voice. This girl’s got pipes! She sings like an angel if angels wore cowboy boots and drank beer. In addition, Jamison Road, like Sugarland, is basically just a rock band fronted by a country singer. DePalma‘s twangy voice soars over driving guitars, bass and drums, underscored by a little pedal steel, some banjo, and wonderful harmonies. Jamison Road also cites as influences country artists such as Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride, and Keith Urban. However, when I first listened to the band’s Sojourn Records debut Let It Rain (2014), I thought of the Randy Rogers Band, who are one of the few country bands I still listen to on occasion. They rock, too.

So, yeah, I’m not a big country music fan. I stumbled on Let It Rain by accident. Well, not “by accident,” more like “by attraction.” I saw Jennifer DePalma looking all cool on the album’s cover at CD Baby, so I listened to the sound clips. I liked them enough to download the album, but, I wasn’t blown away – yet. So, I listened to the downloaded album in higher quality, and, suddenly, something just clicked. I’ve been listening to Jamison Road non-stop ever since that day [one week ago] which sucks because I have new music from some cool female-fronted punk and hard rock bands that I really want to listen to, but I keep going back to Jamison Road! It’s almost like I’m comforted by their sound or something. I even downloaded the band’s self-released eponymous debut, and, found myself enjoying that album just as much as Let It Rain. I hope I’m not becoming a country music fan! I’m not. I can’t be. I’m a rock dude, but, I like what I like, and Jamison Road is a pretty amazing band who are recommended for fans of both rock and country. Or anyone who just likes good music.

cd_cover_jamison_road_let_it_rain_hi-res_BLet It Rain opens with the breezy pop/rocker “Already Gone”. I’ve learned, by listening cold to hundreds of albums from artists I’ve never heard before, that a good first song is a deal breaker. If the first song doesn’t grab my attention immediately, I’ll probably lose interest and move on. Luckily, “Already Gone” is a damn good first song, so I stuck around! “Baby you know the line’s already been drawn / Ain’t no lookin’ back ’cause I’m already gone / Babe you know I’m already gone,” Jennifer DePalma sings, backed by the lovely harmony vocals of Laurie Heltsley and pedal steel. This song needs to be blasted from your iPod linked to your car stereo [times have changed!] as you’re cruisin’ down the highway with the windows down. “Maybe Tonight”, the second track, delivers more addictive pop/rock giving Let It Rain an awesome one-two opening punch. Both songs are similar, musically, with their radio-ready feel and catchy refrains; but, lyrically, they’re in contrast. In “Already Gone”, DePalma is boldly moving on; while, in “Maybe Tonight”, she is “haunted by the one that got away.” She adds, “Maybe tonight, I’ll pretend you’re here beside me one more time, like you were mine.” Maybe she regretted moving on. Or, maybe they’re just songs. Heltsley‘s bass line, in “Maybe Tonight”, kind of reminds me of Emma Anzai‘s bass line in Sick Puppies“So What I Lied”. Very cool. I was falling for this band, for sure, but …

“Bourbon and Bibles”, the third track, is one of two songs on Let It Rain that really sealed the deal for me on Jamison Road. Sure, the opening two tracks are great, but, this mid-tempo ballad is simply amazing – and, it’s my second favorite of the two songs that sealed the deal. The melody and harmonies of this song are mesmerizing, and DePalma‘s vocals are powerfully enchanting as she sings about the two things that matter down in Northern Kentucky: “God and grain, bourbon and bibles.” Did you know that 95% of all bourbon whiskey is produced in Kentucky? I didn’t. Bourbon matters down there, even when the county’s dry. “We fill the pews on Sunday / The bottles up on Monday / ‘Round here it’s all a matter of survival.” A stunning track!

Watch Jamison Road perform “Bourbon and Bibles” live [w/poor sound quality] here …

OK, the other track that sealed the deal for me on Let It Rain, and, my favorite song in this amazing collection, is “Go It Alone”. It’s a wistful ballad about boldly facing a break-up you weren’t expecting. “Last night I was next to him in bed / Now it’s only me and the late-night radio / ‘Cause when I heard those words he said / I knew the time had come for me to go, go it alone.” It’s funny how those steel guitars behind DePalma‘s beautiful voice really drive home the heart-breaking emotion in this wonderful song’s refrain. A few years ago, I went to Tempe, AZ, on a week-long business trip with a co-worker. One night, we went to a country-themed steakhouse called Rustler’s Roost (“Beef and Brew With a View”), situated atop a hill in Phoenix. The place was huge, and I swear it took the waitress nearly five minutes just to walk us to our table. We had live music, great steaks and good times. After dinner, we stepped outside, onto the large stone patio that overlooked the city. I heard a sad country ballad with those pensive steel guitars playing inside as we enjoyed the view. “Go It Alone” reminds me of that song.

“Seventeen” is a vibrant rocker about realizing that there’s more to life than just being young. “Seventeen, you’re like a sweet first kiss / You’re thinking it’ll never get better than this / But, oh, let me tell you that it does,” DePalma sings, proudly. “You’re just getting started, Seventeen,” she adds. I concur. This song, musically, is cut from the same cloth as Bon Jovi‘s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” featuring Jennifer Nettles. Surprising? No. In fact, if you, like me, love Bon Jovi‘s 2007 album Lost Highway, then, you will love Let It Rain, too. Now, since I mentioned Bon Jovi, I’ll say that I would love to hear Jamison Road cover one of my all-time favorite Bon Jovi songs, “Wildflower” (from 2005’s Have a Nice Day). It’s breezy and melodic. However, I don’t think that song would work quite as well by flipping the gender. Guys aren’t like wildflowers. But, the fact that I want to hear this band cover my favorite songs shows you just how good I think they are.

“Broken” is another good ballad in which DePalma finds strength in herself, post-breakup. “You’re the one who left me / But I’m the one who is set free,” she sings. “Let It Rain” proves that most country ballads about rain are worth listening to. Gretchen Wilson‘s “Raining On Me” (from 2005’s All Jacked Up) is a definite favorite. Hey, Jamison Road should cover that one, too! Anyway, Let It Rain closes with the wonderfully addictive “Goodbye Tune”. Just try to shake that song’s refrain: “Once upon a night in June / In the light of a supermoon / Here today, then gone too soon / I never got to sing my goodbye tune.” But, wait – there’s more …

cd_cover_jamison_road_jamison_road_BJamison Road‘s self-titled debut, overall, pops a little more than it rocks, but, it’s still a fantastic album. “Call It Home”, like Let It Rain‘s “Already Gone”, is perfect opening track. This pop/rocker could simply be about loving a bad boy, or something deeper like an interracial or lesbian romance: “We are a match made in heaven / Too bad no one else sees it that way.” Either way, it’s about ignoring intolerance even if you have to run away from it to be happy: “It don’t matter where we go / As long as I’m with you / I’ll call it home.”

“Shut Up and Love Me”, my favorite track, is a passionate ballad where DePalma demands more than promises: “Shut up and love me / No words tonight / All that I want now / Is silence and moonlight.” This song is steeped in country innocence, but, we know what DePalma really wants, that lovely little minx! She struggles, again, with promises in the melancholic ballad of regret “I Know Now”. She laments: “I thought your love was too naïve / There was no way I could conceive / A promise that you’d never leave / But I know now.” This song also delivers my favorite lines from the band’s songbook: “Your heart didn’t tell you lies / But mine put me through hell.”

Watch Jamison Road perform “Call It Home” live [w/better sound quality] here …

Elsewhere, pleasant pop/country melodies power “That’s Enough”, while rootsier Eagles-esque rock drives “After You” and “Slow It Down”, and, surprisingly, bluesy harder rock fuels “Let Me Outta Here”. Jamison Road, the album, closes with the twangy “Girls’ Drinkin’ Song” in which DePalma declares: “I’m a girl and I’m singing a drinking song / It’s not just the boys who have fun / It’s true that I like a cold one, too / So ladies, this one’s for you.” I’ll bet that song’s a crowd pleaser at their shows!

OK, I’ll say it again … I am not a country music fan. I’m not ready to trade my Chucks in for cowboy boots any time soon. However, I am now and forever a fan of Jamison Road. I love their brand of sincere, heartfelt rockin’ country. So, Jennifer, Brent and Laurie… if you ever make it up to Cleveland, I’ll be there, hiding in the back of the club (or arena), hoping that nobody recognizes me and mistakenly outs me as country music fan, but, I’ll be loving every minute of your performance, I’m sure.

Jennifer DePalma‘s voice is one of the best I’ve heard in country music. I’ve mentioned a few songs I’d love to hear her cover, but, if I had to choose one, I’d choose my favorite female-fronted hard rock band Halestorm‘s rockin’ country song “American Boys”. So, Jennifer… if you’re band does, in fact, make it up to the Northcoast, play that one for your new biggest fan in Cleveland – me! If you don’t know the song, listen here.

Maybe they’ve already been here. What do I know? I just discovered them last week!

Anyway, I love this photo …

JamisonRoad_02B