Down in the folk trenches with the Old Edison

A fighter's chance
By BARRY THOMPSON  |  January 11, 2011

UNPLUGGED “The only reason this isn’t a punk band,” explains Liam Boyle (second from left), “is because we didn’t have a drummer, and we couldn’t afford amps.”

In a messy Allston kitchen, in unison, a mob of about 20 or 30 persons start screaming at the Old Edison. And as is their custom, the Old Edison shout right back. Welcome to a typical Old Edison performance, but please watch your step.

"One time, Liam passed out and fell into the recycling bin mid song," recalls singer/guitarist Will Good. "People just lifted him up and were like, 'You're halfway through the second verse! C'mon!' "

Not only do these displays of homespun, gruff-and-tumble exuberance stick out in my memory more than a dozen concerts that I saw at the House of Blues last year, they also hold more psychological staying power than the two or three times I've seen the Old Edison at clubs. Not because nobody stands to make any money or get more famous off a house party. Not because of any haughty notion of DIY "purity." Not for novelty's sake. Those shows were simply a shit-fuck-ton more fun.

"There are some lines that you have to yell," declares multi-instrumentalist Liam Boyle, mid rant over tiresome comparisons with Defiance, Ohio and early Against Me! In so doing, he inadvertently explains his band — who unveil their stellar second album, Story Yelling, at the Midway on January 15 — more precisely with nine words than I can with 670. Boyle and most of the rest of the squad — Good, banjo player Rory Lee, and bassist Squallie Greenthumb — are nursing 40-ouncers in the Allston living room where they rehearse, adjacent to the aforementioned kitchen. Fiddler and whistler Catherine Joyce is, I presume, nursing a 40 elsewhere.

"The only reason this isn't a punk band is because we didn't have a drummer, and we couldn't afford amps, but we had acoustic guitars," Boyle explains. "Now, we just keep learning instruments to sound better for ourselves. That's probably why we sound best when we're just sitting on a porch or in somebody's kitchen."


Actually, that's one reason they are a punk band (though they've long since dispensed with punk's breakneck tempos) and not a folk band (though that's how they categorize themselves) and definitely not an Americana band.

Boring college kids with bright futures in upper-middle management like modern folk. And Americana bands, which are generally easy to market, didn't start getting together because of collective unemployment. The Old Edison's guttural, raspy, gang-vocal bro-downs chronicle chainsmoking, binge drinking, playing guitar with buddies, and lots of gnarly shit that happened at one time or another. In at least one instance, they sanctify Bob Dylan, Ernest Hemingway, and the Bouncing Souls in a single, haggard breath. Their frequent references to their own boozin' and jammin' convey a blatant obviousness that's endearing in its sincerity. In the most literal sense, they sing about what we hear them doing.

"I would hang out in the basement while they were practicing," says Greenthumb, formerly of Faulty Conscience. "Will Good would get way too drunk, hand me the guitar, and say, 'Listen, there are going to be shows where I get too drunk and need to hand the guitar to somebody, so play this.' "

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