Old Man Markley ‘Down Side Up’



Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#854 in the Series) is Old Man Markley, Down Side Up (Fat Wreck Chords)

There is an interesting thing happening in the pop music world these days. The more things change, the more they stay the same….and yet they still keep changing. Not entirely sure what that means, but this much is true: traditionally defined genres are blending, sometimes being deconstructed altogether, and new fusions are emerging. Especially in the Nashville/ACM scene, groups like Gloriana and Lady Antebellum have managed to get mass market crossover appeal while still winning several critical accolades with a not-exactly-country, not-exactly-pop, just pretty-darn-good sound.

Enter Old Man Markley, with a style dubbed “newgrass.”.Energetic without being overly gritty or edgy, think of a more mellow and muted New Found Glory vocals mashed up with Earl Scruggs energy and instrumentation. Hard to imagine, but that’s what you’ve got, and it pretty much works. Currently on tour with the Dropkick Murphys, OMM looks to be a sure-fire conversation starter between old faithful Nashville Top 40 fans and So-Cal punk rockers. (A generation ago, this was inconceivable).

It is no surprise that their new release Down Side Up has topped the Bluegrass charts in the US, and continues to turn heads as the band embarks on a European tour soon. The banjo runs are as solid and vintage as they come, and their live energy must be sky high.

On tracks like “Blood on my Hands” a vintage punk nostalgia-phile like me really wants to hear more distortion in the guitar, more spit in the vocals. But that obviously isn’t what they’re going for. They’re going for intense, bright bluegrass with vocals that shine without getting in the way. They succeed. Some raucous sing-alongs ala Flogging Molly might be nice, but if they’re not barking up that tree, no one should judge them for it.

“Train of Thought” pleases with a fast up-ommliveand-down drum beat —  like a Railroad Earth tune on fast-forward. They wouldn’t be the first group, newcomer or old standby, to cut a track whose rhythm mimics a locomotive, but this attempt isn’t unwelcome or cliché attempt either. It’s real enough, sincere enough to keep me listening.

Upon a cursory listen , one may be inclined to sum up the band as 90% bluegrass, 10% punk. It is surely true that their bluegrass roots are more apparent than their punk heritage, but there are exceptions to this rule. On “America’s Dreaming” we find a rather brazen political rant with a straightforward if somewhat facile lyrical scourge against  a culture of war profiteering, corporate greed and the trampling of human rights. It’s not exactly sophisticated, but it is passionate. (Bad Religion and Rise Against do this much better, but then again, remember that bluegrass is best when it’s simple).

All in all, Old Man Markley will win the affections of legitimate aspiring musicians in both the deep south and So Cal. Like a fine wine bottled and ready to enjoy, but still not quite fully mature, their sound will deepen and add complexity as they age. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more from Old Man Markley down the road.

Robin Crocker, Portland Oregon, USA Please visit and LIKE our facebook page

Releated Links

 Track Listing

  1. Blood on My Hands       ommfiddle 
  2. Rehearsal                           
  3. America’s Dreaming                      
  4. Come Around Here                        
  5. Blindfold                             
  6. So Much More                 
  7. Hard to Understand                       
  8. Beyond the Moon                          
  9. Hand Me Down                               
  10. Up Side Down                  
  11. Fastbreak                           
  12. Train of Thought


  • Johnny Carey – vocals, guitar
  • Annie Detemple – autoharp, vocals
  • Joey Garibaldi – bass, vocalsommband
  • Jeff Fuller – drums
  • Ryan Markley – washboard
  • John Rosen – banjo
  • Katie Weed – fiddle, mandolin

 Additional Musicians

  • Darrell Leonard – Trumpet
  • Kathryn Nicole Nockels – Sousaphone
  • Roger Rivas – Organ
  • Alex Zabolotsky – Mandolin


Listen to Three Tracks Below From Down Side Up

Posted by Larry Carta

Leave a Reply

Before you post, please prove you are sentient.

what is 2 + 5?