Bursting out of Nashville, Tennessee with their own unique blends of Americana and folk, Damned Rivers have made a name for themselves by mixing heartfelt lyrics, passionate vocals, and unstoppable punk-rock energy. Utilising strong dynamics and earthy tones to write songs that are both gripping and memorable, the fourpiece of Ian Mauldin, Kyle Hassenfratz, Mark Summarell, and Ricky DeMeo have become one of Nashville’s most impressive exports, and now with the recent release of their debut album, they’ve decided to kick things up a notch.
A triumphant story of transformation and recovery, ‘The Pugilist’ tells the tale of a boxer at the end of his career, staring down the possibility that his life is changing forever. A touching narrative drawn from the life of principle songwriter Ian himself, ‘The Pugilist’ brings the tale to life through twelve cuts of deft indie rock, walking the thin line between pristine compositions and rough-cut anthemics.
Opening onto a textured stream of lingering guitar chords that mingle amongst the static clad sounds of a cheering crowd and fight referee, the album begins on a luscious and melancholy instrumental that quickly transitions into the explosive sounds of ‘Pulling Punches’. Shining with emotive character and a punk-rock spirit, ‘Pulling Punches’ sets the standard for the album, building itself upon a wave of heavy guitar riffs, rolling bass notes, and powerful percussion that stitches it all together. As the album continues, ‘Prizefighter’ rallies with timeless country charm, bringing a textured duet to the forefront of the gritty instrumentals along with some truly impressive guitar work.
It’s not all rough-and-ready rock tracks, however, with blues-tinged epics like ‘Sweating Out the Sickness’ and ‘When the Wind Messes Up Your Hair’ balancing the rampant, runaway sounds of ‘Cobblestones’ and the funky backbone of ‘Built To Last’. The narrative that permeates the songs is perfectly placed and reflected by the emotional connotations of each song, and through it all, you can’t help by smile at the hopeful nature of the ending, even after heartbreak has struck in the defining moments of the album.
It’s hard to fault Damned River’s debut album, largely because you can tell exactly how much time, work, and effort that they’ve put into it. Every song is played with an unrelenting passion that forces you into the story, pushing you forward and pulling you in. It’s a magical thing, and we can’t recommend it enough.
You can stream ‘The Pugilist’ in full on Spotify and Bandcamp.