Grain Thief guitarist and vocalist rediscovers his heartland rock roots on his solo outing.
Patrick Mulroy is guitarist, vocalist and one of the main songwriters in Boston-based band, Grain Thief. They’ve been described as a grassicana band with their musical style being influenced by bluegrass and its instrumentation, but also including elements from the wider Americana genre. That heady mix is a big reason why Grain Thief have been such a popular band over the last few years and why Mulroy has been kept so busy regularly touring across the US. However, like for many others, the long layoff brought about by the pandemic gave Mulroy time and space to consider his other influences and think about a swathe of songs he’d written that didn’t quite seem to fit with Grain Thief’s grassicana aesthetic.
Before the band was formed, Grain Thief was the name under which Mulroy performed as a solo artist. However, even with this new solo album you don’t get the sense of him regretting the move to becoming part of a quintet. “Our five brains make a great creative team, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” explains Mulroy. “All the success we’ve had has been because of that team. I am just one guy. But there is something different artistically about writing by yourself and driving the bus.”
On ‘Other People’s Houses’, it’s clear that Mulroy has parked the grassicana bus and hopped onto the Harley of heartland rock. Album opener, ‘Blood On My Face’, starts out with acoustic guitar and Mulroy’s pleasing vocals picking up the album’s recurring themes of blue-collar struggles with loneliness, substance abuse, unlucky streaks, and searching for purpose in a tough, old world. Meaty bass guitar and drums join in with some classic piano and crunching electric guitar all combining to set out the key ingredients for some fine heartland rockin’.
The album features a nice range of songs from the delicate guitar instrumental ‘Cameron Highlander’ to some solid rockers like ‘Vengeful God’ and ‘Two Dawgs’, with the latter track kicking off like some primetime Springsteen and even evoking early Elvis Costello in the vocal delivery. ‘London’ features some high-quality pedal steel from Alex Formento but the overall standard of playing in every department is top-class. Likewise, the songwriting and performances are strong across the whole album but, at least for me, the rockier tracks seem to work better. ‘Just My Luck’ is not a bad song at all but it feels lighter and more throwaway and doesn’t match up to the bigger sounding tracks like the album closer ‘My Purple Chip‘.
On ‘Other People’s Houses’ Mulroy demonstrates that he’s more than capable of keeping the heartland rock flag flying high. If you’re a fan of classic blue-collar rock you might want to give this one a listen.