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3 Aug 2017

The Judge "Tell It to the Judge" 2017 US Heavy Psych Hard Rock


The Judge  "Tell It to the Judge"  2017 US Heavy Psych Hard Rock

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Impossibly young three piece back with album number two 

There were loads of things to like about The Judge when they emerged with last year’s brilliant debut. There was the fact they were from Granite City, Illinois (which was as we remarked at the time so much cooler than Olton, Solihull, where MV lives) Then there was the music. 

The term “retro rock” seems to be used to allow boring bands like Rival Sons an excuse to be boring, nonetheless The Judge will get lumped in with that. Thing is, with them its totally natural. Nothing seems forced or thought out here, rather it’s just two friends Dylan Jarrett and Evan Anderson (who formed the band) and singer Tyler Swope playing the music they love. 

There is something timeless about these grooves. A warmth in the guitar playing. The record is nine songs (just like they always used to be) and we’ll bet right now that you could fit it on one side of a TDK90 tape (anyone under 30 ask your parents….) 

Just like their heroes of the 1970’s The Judge have a work ethic too. As such, “Tell It To The Judge” emerges just a year or so after their debut. No worries about lack of quality here, though, indeed they seem to want to showcase their skills: “I feel as if I am ready to show what I have learned” sings Swope on “Islands” and what they have learned largely is to take everything up just a notch. 

The aforementioned “Islands” for example is a fuzzy epic that seems that it might have been jammed in the studio. If it was, then it worked for Sabbath on “Paranoid” and if it wasn’t, then they manage it effortlessly. 

There is a total lack of self-consciousness here. “Go On Home” starts with the line “I’ve warned you once about this bad woman’s love” as if it was the most natural line in the world. A theme from just about every blues record since even before Robert Johnson turned up at the crossroads with his soul, it gives a clue to the fact that “Tell It To The Judge” is a little bluesier than before. 

It fair old bursts out of the traps with a mighty riff. “Empty Halls” gets itself all worked up from the off, while “From The Mountain” enjoys that fact so much it does it again, only this time on a groove that clearly knows a little about Black Sabbath. 

“Strange Ways” is the spirit of Cream resurrected and while you’re considering what made three kids from near Chicago give their lives to music three decades from before they were born, along comes “Changing World” to boogie like it doesn’t have a care in the world. You can think, it seems to say, we’ll just rock. 

“High Flyin’” makes sure there’s no let up’s as it is seven minutes of something very mighty, indeed there is something a little unsettling lurking just below its surface, and “Darkest Daze” is a Hendrix style freakout just for grins. 

As the album ends with “Parade Of Sin” and doesn’t stray too far from the late 60s path the rest of it wants to walk, then the only thought is how far The Judge can go. They have the talent, they have the confidence, and what’s more, they’ve proved the debut album was no fluke…..by…. Andy Thorley………… 

Thanks to albums from the likes of Plainride, The 1968 and The Riven, 2017 has already seen a glut of great releases that hark back to the glory days of late 60’s/early 70’s style rock and proto-metal. So, with a strong whiff of patchouli oil in their nostrils it’s now the turn of relative newcomers The Judge to release their new album upon the world. But how does Tell It To The Judge stack up when compared to the quality the above named bands have to offer? 

Sadly, the answer, our flare-wearing, hip shakin’, riff-lovin’ friends, is not very well! 

It’s probably best to start off with the positives, of which there are a few. To start with, the album is produced perfectly with a rich analogue feel that’s perfect for this type of music and gives every instrument room to breath and shine. Secondly, guitarist Dylan Jarrett comes across as a genuinely talented player with a good ear for riffs, unfortunately this is also where some of the problems start to come to the fore. 

The great thing about the type of music The Judge are emulating (to simplify things we’ll just call it ‘classic rock)’ is that the music was always so diverse, with the originators taking chances and experimenting with blues, psychedelia and/or whatever tickled their fancy at any given time. In comparison, The Judge are content to utilise the same trick over and over again, rarely diversifying from the same blueprint. 

Which leads us on to the next problem! There’s a distinct lack of hooks or anything particularly memorable within these songs – this is the point in which some variety would have provided a useful distraction – and this makes for a fairly tepid experience. Look, The Judge are not a bad band, they just need to throw caution to the wind in order to be truly effective. 

And that’s your lot; sentence has been passed, the court is adjourned….by Gavin O'Connor …


Originally formed in 2010 by long-time friends Dylan Jarrett and Evan Anderson, The Judge is a hard rock quartet of impeccable vintage, formed in the fittingly named stronghold of Granite City, Illinois. 

After the band’s initial incarnation as Unfallen – with Jarrett on guitar and Anderson on drums – the duo quickly became a trio for a period, touring music venues across the St. Louis area with new member Kevin Jones taking up bass and vocal duties. Increasingly influenced by the Britannic rock majesty of groups such as Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, and with it that unshakeable ‘band of brothers’ mentality’, in 2013 the trio finally discovered the missing piece of a puzzle with the addition of their very own enigmatic front man, Tyler Swope. 

As a criminally young quartet happily graduating from the riffs of old, Jarrett and Anderson started to uncover a new wave of hard rock acts occupying radio waves and record store shelves. Music by the likes of Graveyard and Kadavar helped inspire The Judge to develop their own special breed of slow burning psychedelia and sonic stew of traditional classic rock’n’roll and heavy backroom blues, the results of which can be heard on their brand new studio album Tell It To The Judge, which follows on from the release of last year’s acclaimed self-titled debut and first for Ripple Music. 

Tell It To The Judge by The Judge is released on 8th August 2017 on Ripple Music…………….



Illinois heavy rock traditionalists The Judge made their first offering through Ripple Music last year with a reissue of their initially-self-released late-2014 self-titled debut. That release was initially positioned as an EP, so one might think of Tell it to the Judge as the Granite City four-piece’s proper label debut, or their first for Ripple anyhow, but either way, what matters is the band has culled together a warm collection of nine tracks drawing influences from sources classic and modern in the spirit of heavy ’10s boogie. Tell it to the Judge is a little long at just under 45 minutes for something of its style — one tends to think of boogie rock LPs in the range of 36 to 38 minutes, and that can make a difference — but the still-young lineup of standalone vocalist Tyler Swope, guitarist Dylan Jarrett, bassist Kevin Jones and drummer Evan Anderson use that time to position themselves within a burgeoning wave of next-generation American heavy boogie. 

Thinking of output from groups like Slow Season, labelmates Salem’s Bend and countless others in the expansive post-Radio Moscow/Earthless West Coast sphere, or fellow Midwesterners like the frenetically progressive Cloud Catcher and the biker-grooving Bison Machine — for either of whom The Judge‘s measured pace would make an excellent tour pairing — one finds Tell it to the Judge straightforward in its intent and less geared toward weirdo culture certainly than those freaking out along the Pacific. However, in so being, they’re putting focus on craft rather than style in a way that, particularly with Swope‘s easy melodic execution of highlight choruses like those of “Strange Ways” and “Go on Home,” as well as the verses of the penultimate “Darkest Daze,” brings to mind the earlier work of Nashville’s Dirty Streets in culling modern vibes from the likes of Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin and maybe even a bit of Dio-era Sabbath (at least as regards the warning-you-against-evil-ladies perspective of “Go on Home”; see “Walk Away” for reference) thrown in for good measure. 

They’re clearly still in the process of sorting out the various elements that will ultimately solidify as their own sound, but the youthful excitement they bring to side A cuts like opener “Empty Halls,” “From the Mountain” and “Changing World” gives them an edge in terms of their songwriting, as do the righteous solos of Jarrett and the blue-eyed soul of Swope, whose verses in the 6:51 centerpiece “Islands” are no less essential to conveying the ’70s-meets-now vibe than the punctuation of Anderson‘s snare — the drums sound fantastic throughout; a boon to the organic feel of the recording overall along with Jones‘ bass. The latter is of particular note in “Islands” and the also-extended “High Flyin’,” shining through in the more languid roll from beneath Jarrett‘s leads. 
It’s a proven formula, and one would be remiss to leave out the clear affect European acts like Graveyard and Kadavar have had on this movement as a whole — one could argue even the title Tell it to the Judge is modeled on something like Abra Kadavar, though that German trio were hardly the first to put the name of their band in the name of their second record — but the fluidity The Judge bring to these tracks, their ease in moving between varied tempos and undercurrent of developing chemistry on the whole lend a sense of personality to the material from which it very much benefits. 

Again, they’re growing, and searching out their place within the genre aesthetic, but hearing that in the upbeat stomp of “From the Mountain,” the impressively-controlled thrust of “Changing World” and the shuffling finale “Parade of Sin,” which returns from the gone-further-out blues ranging of “High Flyin'” to earthier ground, only makes Tell it to the Judge a more engaging listen. They’re inviting their audience to be a direct witness to their evolution, already in progress. And with the initial sweep of “Empty Halls,” the flow in unfolding “Islands” and the sincerely unpretentious nod of “Go on Home” — which makes up for in catchiness what its woman-done-me-wrong lyric lacks in being politically correct — they make it a simple invitation to accept. 

Like many of their up-and-coming cohorts, The Judge showcase potential over staid or studied realization, but there’s already stylistic nuance to be heard in shifting tones throughout “Darkest Daze”‘s light psych-blues flourish and the swing of “Strange Ways,” and that stands as one of the most encouraging factors when one considers Tell it to the Judge‘s place in the modern sphere. They have and will continue to have their work cut out for them in cutting out a niche for their work, but while Anderson and Jarrett trace The Judge‘s founding back to 2009/2010, they still come across in these tracks like a new band, and that is something they should embrace for the vitality it implies in their delivery, which make no mistake, is very much there. Whether that will be what defines their course as a group remains to be seen, and as a result, Tell it to the Judge is all the more fun as a front-to-back classic-minded listening experience. ….. 





The Judge: 
Dylan Jarrett – Guitar 
Evan Anderson – Drums 
Kevin Jones – Bass 
Tyler Swope – Vocals



Track Listing: 
1. Empty Halls 
2. From the Mountain 
3. Strange Ways 
4. Changing World 
5. Islands 
6. Go On Home 
7. High Flyin’ 
8. Darkest Daze 
9. Parade of Sin

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..