Cover art courtesy Controlled Substance Sound Labs
Reggae-rock outfit Bumpin Uglies releases their eighth album, Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions, which was recorded live in the studio by the band’s founder, Brandon Hardesty.
Encompassing 16 tracks, Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions introduces seven new songs never before heard and nine fan favorites that have been stripped down to raw, poignant, gut-punching versions that differ from the fast-paced guitar riffs, pulsing drums, and dynamic horn sections of the originals.
According to Hardesty, “‘Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions’ is an anthem for authenticity. It’s for all the artists that choose to embrace their passion as a form of art, rather than a transactional medium. A celebration of the imperfections that make us beautiful.”
Ever since Bumpin Uglies began making music more than a decade ago, they have done things their way, sans any consideration for the conventions of the music industry. This DIY attitude resulted in hit records, tens of millions of streams, and a massive fan base.
Stripping the songs down to the essentials – the deliciously raspy, nasal voice of Hardesty and an acoustic guitar – infuses the music with a visceral organicism.
Speaking subjectively, entry points include the opener, “Locust Avenue,” a tune tinted by hints of punk and folk-rock, highlighted by a tempo shift as Hardesty narrates the once-upon-a-time-experience of living and hanging out on a particular street.
“Underdog,” the title track, rolls out on a rapidly strumming guitar topped by Hardesty’s passionate, grating vocals, imbuing the lyrics with the harsh actuality of most people’s lives. A personal favorite, “Wild Girls,” features an ascending descending guitar intro flowing into a song about heavy-duty partying, where the party doesn’t really get going until “the wild girls show.”
Dark and full of flickering shadows, “Self-Loathing” showcases the precision and range of Hardesty’s voice, alternating between tight, choppy phrasing to snarling screams to falsetto humming. Beautiful and quixotic, “The Work” reveals a charming love song, dripping with affectionate devotion.
“Suburbia” travels on a more resonant guitar, giving the tune an expansive feel while Hardesty tells the truth about living in the burbs:
“Dad worked a lot, so he was never at home / Mom drank a lot because she was always alone … Living the American dream / Out in suburbia / Whoa / It ain’t exactly what it seems.”
The intense, intimate, and vulnerable energy of the folk-punk-flavored “Loneliness in Ab” is refreshingly honest, almost brutal in its truthfulness.
“Jerry’s Song,” a gentle folk tune, ties the album off with sincere tenderness, unveiled through the evocative tones of Hardesty’s remarkable voice.
Underdog: The Acoustic Sessions allows listeners to rub up against the elemental substance of great music performed from the heart.