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CD REVIEW: Scowl Brow

It's straightforward rock that exudes emotions from the heart and hits the listener hard with its no bullsh*t approach.

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A pulsing guitar riff opens up the self-titled debut EP from Charlotte trio Scowl Brow. It leads to the raspy vocals of singer/guitarist Robby Hale telling the story of his brother's suicide on the opener, "Years." The song's slightly '50s pop-rock rhythms offer a kind of healing for the singer despite its weighty lyrics. His poetic style comes through strongly — "We just got fucked up with my family tree, and we mourned a fallen leaf," Hale sings — while drawing the listener into his pain and remembrance. Opening up a personal side in his songwriting is what establishes an immediate connection to the audience that carries through the album's six tracks.

It's straightforward rock that exudes emotions from the heart and hits the listener hard with its no bullshit approach. There's a resemblance to Social Distortion here and there, without the rockabilly undertones, but the music is set further back allowing Hale's voice to tell its story. Hale finds the right times to unleash his pain and anguish through tortured phrases and stronger vocal strains. Scowl Brow's lineup is completed by drummer Joshua Taddeo and former Noises 10 guitarist Patrick Boyd, who is returning to his comfort zone on the bass.

The music takes a backseat to Hale's vocal tone, but even more to the words he's belting out. "I've broke down words/that I've heard you said/when your educated friends made me feel like an idiot, " Hale sings on "Heard You Say." You can only assume that the strength of what he's sharing lyrically is only the surface of what he's gone through personally — it's that background that drives his music forward.

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