Print, Reviews May 16, 2019

Album Review: Ethyl and the Regulars – Honest Work

by Valerie Vampola

Ethyl and the Regulars’ new album Honest Work is a reflection of just that – a mature Americana sound grounded in tradition without the need for any flash.

The album opens up with a melodic pedal steel guitar (or a slide guitar) and tight vocal harmonies provided by lead vocalist CJ Nicolai and bassist Donnie Jerome, establishing a strong western swing sound. Their sound stays true and consistent throughout the entire album with walking bass lines, bits of blues piano and a clean rockabilly electric guitar.

Jerome’s comfort and familiarity with the classic western swing style matches the swing and classic country covers the band slips in between his originals. His lyrics tell narratives of heartbreak, both in a passionate and a tongue-in-cheek way, in a style that is down to earth and relatable. Credited on the majority of songs found on the album, Jerome’s writing is strong. So much so that the band chose to feature him singing on several tunes in spite of Nicolai’s even stronger and more authentic vocals. The two voices are a dynamic duo.

But there is an added layer on top of their Americana sound. Ethyl and the Regulars include selections of jazz tunes, like the 1939 standard “Comes Love” and the blues standard “40 Cups of Coffee.” They even incorporate the head from the Thelonious Monk piece “Blue Monk” into Jerome’s original song “Midnight Blue,” using Monk’s melody as a thematic tool for instrumental conversation.

Even with distinguished roots and influences pulling from classic country music, Ethyl and the Regulars find ways to diversify their sound in an authentic but edgy way. Honest Work takes pride in celebrating western swing without a need to “update” the music with distorted guitars or pull it into a more “rock” direction. Rather, this Denver quartet lay down their music with simplicity, authenticity and honesty.

Ethyl and the Regulars hit, yes, regularly in Denver. In true old-school fashion, Honest Work is available on iTunes and at their live shows, so catch them Friday, May 17 at Skylark Lounge (140 S. Broadway) 9 PM ‘till 1 AM and Saturday, May 18 at the Berkeley Inn (3834 Tennyson St.) 2 PM to 6 PM.