Ike Reilly defies any easy categorisation – except as a very talented and original singer/songwriter. Reilly has deep country roots (he is from a small town in Illinois, USA) yet he is also thoroughly modern: he has previously worked with the Dust Brothers, for example, and has drawn comparisons to the folk/hip-hop innovator, Beck.
The first album from the group The Ike Reilly Assassination, Junkie Faithful, is interesting and enjoyable throughout. The CD covers a lot of the tragedy and sins usually associated with country music: a mom’s death, abandoned children, drugs, bitter break-ups, and many questions for God. Most interesting is that the songs owe almost as much to the world of power-pop as to Nashville. Even in What a Day, a stark and honest look back on a mother’s life on her funeral day (“all the people remembered why they had sent her away/all the people remembered but nobody said a thing”), the mood is oddly upbeat. Junkie Faithful deals with a lot of heavy issues, but the music always manages to soar.
Reilly has apparently seen a lot firsthand, but he also seems to be singing about a lot of it from the other side. He is the rare country crooner that seems to have already seen his own faith rewarded in the past and probably more than once. Thus, Reilly is able to address gritty issues but be uplifting and even have a sense of humour about it at all, such as in the oddly affecting I Will Let You Down (“Every time I can/I will let you down, when you need me most/I will leave my post”).
The song writing on Junkie Faithful is so solid that most every song easily flows from melancholic country strumming and edgy topics to the warm and melodic. And even the most existential of issues are always brought squarely back to the here and now (“Somewhere between fear and dreams is life”).
While Reilly frequently speaks of God and of clergymen (and at times a church organ calls him), he is just as likely to seek redemption in some roadside coffee shop. In the Edge Of The Universe Café, a waitress promises Reilly that “someday son you will meet up with all those that you have hurt.” Luckily for us, Reilly has indeed already found a lot of redemption – and a lot of excellent tunes as well.