CD Reviews – April 2023

By: Jim Price

THE BADLEES – THE BADLEES With a reunion performance during their induction into the Central Pennsylvania Music Hall Of Fame in 2021 serving as a catalyst, the original roster of The Badlees began creating music together again, resulting in their new, self-titled album. It only takes a few moments into this album to realize that The Badlees are still masters of their roots rock-based musical universe, and the album’s ten tracks show that their collective gifts of songcraft, lyrics and musicality continue to deliver. The group’s sound remains rooted in Americana-geared rock, but as with their past output, The Badlees – chief songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Bret Alexander, singer Pete Palladino, bassist Paul Smith, guitarist Jeff Feltenberger and drummer Ron Simasek – incorporate enough instrumental, vocal and songwriting nuances into the mix to keep it all engaging and interesting. The album’s opening track, “1,000 Melodies Without Words,” seems to welcome the return of the creative process as they “navigate the static” of that logjam of wordless melodies to generate something new. The upbeat “Faces Under Glass” contemplates past family members and measuring up to their legacy, while the harder-edged “What I’ve Wasted” reflects on spent time and lost moments. Guest Nyke Van Wyk’s violin adds a rustic charm to the folksy “Leaving Here,” as well as the more serious-toned “Tear It Down.” Written by the group’s longtime collaborator Mike Naydock, “Nasty Alcoholic” mixes country twang with a touch of barroom wisdom; while the mandolin and violin-flavored album-closer “My Friends” escalates toward a pub-like sing-along homestretch. This set is as strong and intriguing as The Badlees have ever sounded. Pete, Bret and Jeff’s voices sound seasoned, sharp and expressive; and the arrangements and mixture of instruments maintain’s the album’s freshness from start to end. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are engaging and insightful, and this group sounds like they have never gone away. The Badlees is a welcome return, and should provide a satisfying listen to longtime Badlees fans and newbies alike. (The album can be obtained through The Badlees’ website,, as well as through online streaming platforms.)

CODY TYLER & GYPSY CONVOY – STARE YOUR DEMONS DOWN The catch phrase that bandleader Cody Tyler uses to describe his music – “black dirt country” – references the coal-tinged dirt found in rural east-central PA and Cody’s unique fusion of outlaw country, honky tonk and southern rock elements, demonstrated on his first full-length album with his group Gypsy Convoy, Stare Your Demons Down. Forged after discovering his late grandfather’s record collection of outlaw country from Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash (the theme of the song “Drop That Needle [Grandad’s Vinyl]”), Cody’s musical style blends those influences with southern and even swamp rock flavors over the album’s ten tracks. Along with playing guitar, Cody displays a bold and rugged voice up front, flanked by bassist Kenny Peffley, drummer Kenneth Mettam and keyboardist Lenny Casper. Setting the album’s tone is the opening number, “One to the Heart,” a robust country-rocker about conquering apprehensions and going for the gusto in life, with horn accompaniment to give it extra spunk. Cody sings of dedication to his music and his love on the tranquil “Still That Never Goes Dry,” before musing about a moonshine misadventure on the darker and swampy “Playin’ with Firewater.” Cody spins a tale of coal-hauling railroad life on “Fate I Can’t Outrun,” and sings introspective words about trying to better himself on “Blessed Life.” Driving honky tonk fuels “Cut the Bull,” Cody’s rant about real country vs. “twangy pop,” as well as his ode to a hunting foray into the northern PA Wilds, “Ramble in the Hills.” He salutes past and present family members who have served and are serving the country on the patriotic and traditional country-toned “Eagle Tattoo,” and ends the album with the hard-edged tribute to the bar-gigging lifestyle, ”Fold Me Up, Haul Me Home.” These songs all connect with well-crafted melodies and relatable words, all driven home by Cody’s emphatic voice and swagger. His band delivers a solid and tight foundation behind the songs, packing the punch or gently guiding the melody as needed. The overall production sounds big and full, giving Cody’s voice prominence and clarity, and the instruments balance and crispness. Stare Your Demons Down is a strong first offering from Cody Tyler & Gypsy Convoy, and provides an exciting listen. (The album can be obtained through Cody’s website,, as well as online streaming platforms.)