Hard Riffs is the breakout project of the Austin-based Michael Mancuso (Steady Legend), a veteran of the central Texas music scene, featuring keyboardist Sam Powell (Black Joe Lewis) and percussionist Harrell Williams (Resident ZACH Theater drummer). With the release of his first solo EP, respectfully titled Stand Alone, Mancuso lives up to the band name with a collection of guitar heavy roots-rock songs boosted with a modern twist. Just short of 16 mins in length and comprising of a 5 song tracklist, Stand Alone is not the longest studio album to ever be produced but it does tell a story that anyone who has been in a failed relationship can relate to. With upbeat tempos and an uplifting sound it is difficult to believe that many of the songs weave narratives of infidelity, unrequited love, and burned bridges.
Stand Alone is an EP that is not going to reinvent the wheel but rather a modern interpretation on a time when cassette tapes, boomboxes, and 80’s glam bands reigned supreme. It is a twenty-first century journey through blues-rock from the late 70’s to the early 90’s, inspired by the greats of their time. With songs like ‘Dirty Ways’, ‘She’s Running’, and ‘Heart Attack’, Mancuso has created a neoteric collection of 80’s rock classics without the typical overuse of the synthesizer that Generation X and Y seemed to specialize in. Hard Riffs displays soaring guitar solos with solid backing bass lines and easy to understand lyrics sung by an even easier to get behind lead singer; Mancuso himself. It takes me back to the fond days of my childhood sitting in the garage with my father listening to his favorite songs by the bands who dominated the airways of his youth; such as Huey Lewis and the News, Duran Duran, Europe, the Dave Matthews Band, the Animals, and the Cult.
Stand Alone is the perfect album for rock fans tired of being subjected to the wave of today’s ‘indie’ rockers and a homage to some of the greatest music to make an entire generation of uptight, religious fanatics uncomfortable. Hard Riffs is sure to find a home in the hearts of the heavily rock’n’roll influenced Austin, Texas.
Hard Riffs will debut Stand Alone on June 30 at Barracuda along with special guests, Austin-natives Obsolete Machines and Hippo.
Tickets can be purchased here.
(Sam Powell and Harrell Williams performed on Stand Alone EP only and are not pictured)
Photos and article by: Demetrius Judkins