The only lifelong member of 500MTM, Ryan Malott formed the band in 2003. The group’s mix of Country/Americana twang with spunky Modern Rock/Punk spiritedness has always been an alluring aspect of 500MTM, giving it a multidimensional colorfulness. But it would be far less compelling without Malott’s exceptional songwriting, which has brought an emotive soulfulness and a barrage of ear-latching hooks to each album. Despite the genre-specific touchstones, Malott’s songs have always had a sense of timelessness and Blessed Be The Damned is no different, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with 500MTM’s best work.
Album-opener “The River” is a slight callback to the tone-setting first track on 500MTM’s 2007 breakthrough, Sunshine In A Shot Glass. Where that album’s “All My Friends Are Crazy” introduced the proceedings with rowdy foot-stomps, “yee-haws” and a high-energy, fiddle-laden Country rave-up before exploding into more contemporary Rock mode, “The River” begins with a rousing slice of Appalachian Gospel, with the layered choral voices soon giving way to beefy electric guitar and the rollicking, ceiling-scraping drumming of Kevin Hogle.
The opening track’s abrupt splitting apart of the group’s two primary personality traits is a bit dramatic but wildly effective as a welcoming introduction. Still, one of the band’s most impressive feats is a more seamless blending of Country/Americana and Rock/Punk, a mix that is especially vibrant and powerful on Blessed. Other highlights include “Bonnie,” which sounds like a lost Lumineers/Flogging Molly/Green Day jam session; the jubilant and playful “I Said Babe,” which swaggers between honky-tonkin’ verses and explosive, arena-worthy choruses; and “No Doubt About It,” which gives Social Distortion a run for its money in the “What if Johnny Cash was a punk rocker?” department.
The brief “Piggie Boy” and “In My Chest” feature some of the Bluegrass tendencies 500MTM indulged on last year’s EP (as well as for some special all-acoustic live shows), while the musicians go to the edge of the other end of the spectrum on the thunderous “What a Waste,” which is the closest the band has ever come to straight-up Metal.
The group is doing a few release-party shows this week, including events in Nashville and Dayton, Ohio. This Saturday (Jan. 26), 500 Miles to Memphis celebrates Blessed’s release at the Southgate House Revival (111 E. Sixth St., Newport, southgatehouse.com). Kicking off at 8:30 p.m., the show will also feature performances by local favorites Noah Smith and Eric Bolander, Dayton’s Red Hot Rebellion, Nashville’s Mercy Bell, Chicago’s Mutts, Lexington, Kentucky's Bryan Minks and the Kentucky Sons and Dallas, Texas' Pedigo's Magic Pilsner, the current project of John Pedigo, who worked on the production of Blessed with Adam Pleiman.
Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door.
Visit 500mtm.com for more info.
UPDATE: Blessed Be The Damned is available to stream and purchase now on most major digital platforms. Click below to stream "Bonnie" (and click through to stream/score your own copy of the full album) from 500 Miles to Memphis' Bandcamp page.