Uncle Billy's Smokehouse
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Uncle Billy's Smokehouse

Worcester, Massachusetts, United States

Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
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"UBS review in Metronome Magazine"

Though the name might spark connotations of straight-out blues or even country music, Uncle Billy's Smokehouse is not your typical Southern fried rock or blues band. They have resurrected the energetic pomp and circumstance of bands and days gone by that arose out of the ashes of the flower child movement in the late 60's, mainly derivative of the theatrical English blues movement that combined blues with an orchestral style reminiscent of English Folk and Classical music, still done today by such enduring and endearing acts as Jethro Tull and the reinvented Renaissance style of Ritchie Blackmore in Blackmore's Night.
It's a musical and stage style that we are missing these days from the array of typical contemporary fodder. Many bands in the rock and blues world are looking to adhere to the everyman creed, where band members are just the same as you and me. I say, if I wanted to see the everyman or the grounded down-to-earth individual that's so easy to relate to, I'd call up one of my friends or go see my aunt Nellie. When you're serving up rock and performance give me bands like Uriah Heep, Humble Pie, Mott The Hoople, The Sweet and T. Rex. I'm a sucker for that kind of Sunday morning fare, but don't tell anybody.
Bands like the Heep had a certain stage presence that ushered in the rock stardom of the 70's, but sadly became the glammed-out tiredness of the late 80's. Bringing back the music and stage presence is Uncle Billy's Smokehouse, with Brad Simmons pounding out the beats of his drum onslaught and backing vocals, Steven Sullivan laying down the thump of funk on bass and backing vocals, and the Ryan brothers, Sean and Jody, with blistering and inventive guitar work and the textural subtleties of melodic keyboard licks, respectively. Both Ryans share lead vocal duties and have developed a band concept that is all at once an exercise in retrospection and reinvention. While bringing forth the blues psychedelia of the previously mentioned bands, they also pepper their music with tight and gritty blues riffs that can be found in bands like ZZ Top and Aerosmith, as well as the blues interpretations of Johnny Lang.
"God", the first song on Uncle Billy's Smokehouse's first length album, 'Tracks', encompasses the full spectrum of Uncle Billy's musical offerings, incorporating blues, progressive, psychedelic, and even Southern fried rock elements into a single song and then parsing out those individual elements into the remaining tracks on 'Tracks'. From the blues prominence of "Sunlight Breaks In" mixed with Uriah Heep-like melodies resplendent in the bridge, to the Randy Newman qualities of "One Good Man", and on to one of my personal favorites, "The Sweater", with lyrical quality and musicality reminiscent of The Sweet and Blue Oyster Cult, Uncle Billy's Smokehouse offers a little something for everyone, including fans of jam band music, as UBS's live shows confirm. Check out one of their live shows at their main stomping ground, Tammany Hall, to see it with your own eyes.
Uncle BIlly's Smokehouse creates a large furiously resonant wall of sound complete with enduringly hypnotic lyrical content that draws audiences into the flurry of their musical storm.

METRONOME: Where did you come up with the band name? I see that you thank an Uncle BIlly and Aunty Kathy in the album's "Wicked Big Thanks To" section.
UBS: Uncle Billy is actually our (Jody and Sean) father's family nickname, and at a certain point when we were living out in Colorado we happened to stop by this hotdog stand called The Smokehouse, just as simple as that, and jokingly put the two together and it stuck. So we used the name for the band, which has a funky blues feel to it as well as lending great graphical ideas to our website as well as our current and future albums. It's also a nice way to pay tribute to our father at the same time.
METRONOME: How did the style of the band's music evolve? Did it all just click together, build up over time, or was it a concious decision?
UBS: It's really the influence of music that our parents listened to. It would typically be odd for most people to relate to their parents' music, byt our parents listened to some cool stuff. It was everyting from Jan and Dean to Black Sabbath and on to the Beatles and the Stones. Our father even liked Judas Priest, so what comes out in our musical style is actually bigger than all of us. No matter what we do it always has that undertone, and Steve's bass lines lend a funk styling that is similar to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Parliament Funkadelic. He's a very versatile player and really adds depth and color to what we're doing.
METRONOME: It seems like you've been working at the evolution of this band for a while. How are you finding the business aspects of booking and playing out at this point? Do you have a loyal fan base, in terms of friends, or are you building from the ground up?
UBS: A little bit from column A and a little bit from column B. In the more regional shows we draw a lot of people, plus e've done a lot of work promoting ourselves on the internet. In the New England area we're pretty well tapped into the scene and we find that a lot of people are actually waiting for us to come and play in their area. We're finding that we're a band's band, too. Other bands like us and that truly means something to us. We often trade shows back and forth with bands that we become friendly with through mutual musical admiration. They'll bring us out in front of their audience and we'll do the same in areas or venues where we have a regular following. It's great for spreading the word, branching out to different states, and developing a communal feel in the music community.
It's all really coming together for us at this point because we're (Sean and Jody) finally happy now. We're happy with the other two guys we're playing with, whereas in the past it didn't seem to really gel. We enjoyed playing with other people that have come and gone, but with Steve and Brad everything just clicks and we're able to really play off one another in a seemingly effortless manner. Songs flow much more easily and our ability to jam at our live shows has really intensified. We're looking forward to doing our next album and stretching our limits with each new release. As a band, we're inspired by melody and lyrics that touch us in one way or another and that aren't just formulatic, and we feel that a lot of people are still interested in songs that have depth and realness to them. We try to act as artists/songwriters, not as artists who buy songs from songwriters or put together manufactured elements to create a formula. We're not out to make one hit song. We actually want to do something for our fans and create a certain loyalty. Good harmony vocals, subtleties in the melody line, and ripping guitar solos are important to us. We want to develop them around passionate lyrical content. It kind of seems that in today's edgier rock and especially the popular mainstream rock, that there is a contrived element and it doesn't stray too far from formula. Going along with our classic rock vibe, we're now working on Wings' style harmonies and the development of larger anthemic types of songs. We're playing them out in clubs already, but they'll have to be scaled down a bit, in terms of length, to make it onto the next album. The songs from back in the day are anthem rock songs, and the reason you still hear them on the radio today is because they're really good songs and they won't die, whereas contemporary bands may come out with a hit song that's huge and then you don't hear it anymore two years down the road. Even WAAF, which touts its commitment to play the latest cutting edge music, is still drawing from the pools of Hendrix and Zeppelin, and that's a good thing.
METRONOME: Where would you like to take Uncle Billy's Smokehouse in the future? Are you shopping around for representation and a record label or are you immersing yourselves in the independent movement?
UBS: We really want anything and everything. We're trying every possible avenue to develop our music and get the music out there. We'd love to get a deal or hook up with a lawyer and have someone back us because they, in turn, feel that they can make money by getting us out to a wider audience, but we don't think it's just going to magically happen for us. We're out there making it happen by developing the music, playing the shows, and marketing ourselves in any way, shape or form. The thing about our music is that it has proven appeal to a wide spectrum of age groups. We get young kids that are 18 or 19 coming up to us and complimenting our contemporary style and we also get people that are in their 50's or 60's complimenting us and reminiscing about bands they loved that they think we sound similar to. Additionally, we get every age in between, so we're building the best of everything.

Uncle Billy's Smokehouse has received a fantastic response from everyone who has listened to their first full length album and, as they related to me, one of the most enduring aspects of this album's creation is that members of their current fan base, eagerly awaiting their first full length cd, have come up to them since the release of 'Tracks' and asked, "Why didn't you put this song on?" or "Why didn't you put that song on?" Those are very encouraging questions because it points to the fact that Uncle Billy's Smokehouse can draw from the vast array of songs that they've built up as a live act and continue to hold the interest of fans while steering the course of their original concept into the ever evolving nature of successive releases.
Uncle Billy's Smokehouse will be playing at Milly's Tavern in Manchester NH, on Saturday, November 26th from 10 pm until close. On Wednesday, November 30th at 9 pm, UBS plays at Nectars in Burligton, VT, and on February 9th the band will be appearing at Club Felt in Boston for a special opening show. Take a look at www.unclebillyssmokehouse.net for more band info, downloads, lyrics and to post on Uncle Billy's message board.
- Shaun McNamara


"Debut Studio Album Review"

Womtown dot org's Phil McNamara has recently written a review of the 2005 studio release Tracks. Wormtown dot org is a highly reputable music resource for the Massachusetts area since the internet boom and this awesome review came from someone who has seen us play for a number of years and really understands where we all came from and is heading today.

UNCLE BILLY’S SMOKEHOUSE – “TRACKS” (Produced, Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered by Todd Harris at Str8up Entertainment Worcester, MA)

This local rock quartet is made up of guys who’ve been around the scene for awhile, most notably in the bands The Cream Team and White Chocolate. Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse shares the Alman Brothers and Grateful Dead’s penchant for improvisation but also for very long songs. The opener “God,” is a jammin’ blues shuffle that has keyboardist Jody Ryan and guitarist brother Sean Ryan conjuring up both Jack Bruce of Cream and Greg Allman with their vocals. On the percussive bouncy “Not Today” Jody Ryan almost sounds like Dr. John as he conveys the frustration of the songs lyrics. That’s what he does for the first minute. The next four and a half minutes is a jam where guitar and keyboard dominate, but some interesting drum and bass parts shine through. If you’re a fan of early Pink Floyd or The Grateful Dead you’ll dig this. Of course if you’re of the belief that all the 40 minutes of musical statements in The Allman Brothers “Mountain Jam” can be summed up in three minutes, maybe not so much.

“Sunlight Breaks” and “One Good Man” continues the improv. jam. They sing “One Good Man” like Greg Allman would have done on one of those heart wrenching old blues tunes. There’s a live a cappella break in the middle of the song to inspire everyone to sing along. “Babe” is a slow building blues rock jam with some stellar guitar soling. If you’re into it, it’s lots of fun. If not it’ll probably be a painful seven-and-a-half minutes. “Takes that Much More” changes the pace up nicely, shifting into a bouncy Jimi Hendrix, “Manic Depression” feel. The guitar solos, stellar vocals, and dynamics in this song makes it my favorite on the album so far. It slows done for a quiet piano solo then goes into a prog. rock jam that’s a little bit Yes and a little bit Santana.

“The Sweater” starts with a dramatic piano build up that brings Queen to mind. Neither Uncle Billy’s vocalist can do the Freddie Mercury part, but hey, who can. The cheery refrain makes this song one of the catchiest on the album. “Just Like Me” puts the record back in jam mode, with it’s wah-wah funk. The bluesy harmonies stand out on this one. The album starts its wind up with the title cut, a slow building blues jam that Sean Ryan sings in a raspy wailing voice. It’s a song that takes a little patience as it goes 5 and a half minutes at a slow blues pace. “Give it Time” is more like it. It’s a tight bouncy jam where Brad Simmons’ drums are turned up prominently, Steve Sullivan’s rock steady bass thumps through loud and clear, Sean Ryan’s meaty rock riffs mix and spiraling psychedelic leads mix just right with Jody Ryan’s free jazz like piano. Ryan’s cheery vocals and offbeat lyrics about “living a mechanical bullride” just make the song for me. If I were arranging the album, I would have moved this one further up.

The album goes out with the anthemic 60s sound of “Quiet Sundays.” At different times Derrick and the Dominoes, Buffalo Springfield, and The Monkees come to mind. It’s the vocal harmonies that do it. They really hark back to the AM radio days of the mid 60s. No one even bothers trying to harmonize like this nowdays, but I’m glad they did. I couldn’t think of a better song to end the record with. It’ll make you glad you listened all the way through. If you dig the jam, you’ll dig this record; and if you don’t dig the jam, they’re still well written songs that you can listen to then fast forward through the long jam parts. That works for most folks. - Wormtown.org by Phil McNamara


"Studio Album Review by Kynd Music"

Mick Skidmore a writer for Relix Magazine for over 20 years has taken notice to Uncle Billy's Smokehouse's CD Tracks and has featured us in his latest writing venture for Kynd Music. Kynd Music is quickly becoming a very valuable resource for the Jamband scene and Mick was kynd enough to offer his talents reviewing the March 2005 release in his monthly feature Mick's Picks. We would like to thank Mick for the awesome job describing the album and band in the article, finally someone who gets it! We are just now seeing an out of town interest start to grow into a little bigger audience and plan to keep it going strong with 2 shows in New York City in October.

Uncle Billy's Smokehouse, A Band on the Way
By Mick Skidmore

Worcester, Massachusetts - Since their formation in 2001 Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse is a hot quartet that’s intent on taking the ballsy blues-rock and psychedelic rock of the early 70s and melding it with a savvy 21st century jam sensibility, and on the evidence of their recent Tracks album that was released earlier this year they are doing a pretty darn good job at it. The band has been through a few line-up changes since its beginning but the current line-up of Jody Ryan keyboards and vocals, Sean Ryan guitar and vocals, Steve Sullivan bass guitar and drummer Brad Simmons have been together for about a year and they are really beginning to gel.

One of the most refreshing aspects about the band is that they draw on a wide variety of old and new influences but meld them into something that’s emerging as a sound that’s both familiar but new at the same time. Simmons and keyboardist Jody Ryan say the bands draws on bands such as Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Dead, Phish, Pink Floyd, RHCP, Allman Brothers, Black Crowes, Jane’s Addiction, amongst others. Simmons explains the philosophy. “The 70s rock anthem vibe is intentional without trying to be obvious. We enjoy the hits of the 60s and 70s and feel the mood and energy of that time period is a feeling that should never die, but at the same time we want to keep a modern edge/attitude appropriate to our fan base.”

The band’s 11 cut studio album Tracks really is a solid effort. It’s a melding of classic rock with a little more “progressive rock” diversity. They rock hard but they do it with finesse and around some pretty tight and well structured songs. Highlights include the atmospheric opener “God,” the more hook laden “Sunlight Breaks In” and “The Sweater.” The latter really wouldn’t sound out of place on any classic rock station. Also noteworthy is the title song a slow menacing slice of blues-rock with some nice snarling guitar work.

The band currently has a solid fan base in Worcester but has ventured through most of New England and actually plans putting together a complete East Coast tour in the near future. They play a variety of clubs and festivals and hope to expand that in the future. They have plenty of new material for a new album as Simmons explains, “We are currently working on about 15 songs for a new album. We expect to be back in the studio this years….money is now more of an issue that material.” They’ve also just launched a new website set up by their manager Tony Scavone, where you will be able to view some live performances by the band. Of their live sound Sullivan says “We enjoy and embrace the jam scene and like to be a part of it. The songs are our number one priority but after we have a song worked out then the experimentation comes.” Jody Ryan further elaborates on this. “With time we expect to allow more space for jams and possibly entire instrumental songs. We don’t jam like most of today’s jambands. Our jams are more reminiscent of those of Traffic or Derek and the Dominoes – bands that didn’t jam on the radio singles but always stretched it out during performances."

Like many up and coming bands they have taken some gigs where they are expected to play some covers but Ryan sees this positively. “We feature two to three covers per show depending on the venue and fan requests….it’s fun for us to play some of our favorite songs by our favorite bands.”

This is band that’s well worth investigating. Even though their Tracks album is well recorded I can’t help but wonder just how good an album they’d come up with if they were afforded a top studio and a really sharp producer. - Mick Skidmore


"Cover Story in The Pulse Magazine"

Songs for the Working Class

Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse makes music for the masses

By Kim Dunbar

March 2005 - In June 2004, members of Uncle Billy’s Smokehouse told the PULSE that they wanted to impact Worcester’s music scene. And they have — the group has one the fastest growing fan bases of any band in the area and they recently cut their first full length album, Tracks. Now the band is looking to impact the national rock scene with their back-tobasics rock and roll.

“We just always knew it was music for us,” guitarist Sean Ryan says. “We aren’t those ‘real job’ kinda guys. We weren’t made for that.”

Sean’s brother Jody, the other half of the songwriting team, is just as dedicated. He gave up a full scholarship to UMass Amherst because it did not allow him to study music.

“We just do what we love,” said the keyboardist/vocalist. “That’s all you can do.”

Yet it takes a lot more than simply a dream to build the fan base and establish the touring circuit that Uncle Billy’s has. Formed in 2002, the band already has a solid and diverse following that will trek across the state and even over the state line for shows.

“We literally have 15 year olds and 80 year olds coming up to us, telling us they love our music,” says Jody Ryan. “We have songs that people remember.”

Those loyal fans will be rewarded with the release of Uncle Billy’s first full-length album, Tracks, on March 17. Don’t miss the St. Patrick’s Day bash/ CD-release party at Tammany Hall on Pleasant Street in Worcester.

Talking to the Ryans, they make it sound like the road to this point was an easy one. But digging deeper, there are stories of brotherly conflicts, difficult band members and a group that was often on the rocks. Sean and Jody Ryan have played together with drummer Brad Simmons for eight years, yet it wasn’t until the recent introduction of bassist Steven “Janky Bones” Sullivan that the band united under the vision they share today.

Sullivan initially met the three other band members when Uncle Billy’s played with The Late Messengers in October. He was undeniably impressed.

“When I saw them on stage, I knew they were only missing one thing,” he says, “and that was me on bass.”

The Ryans and Simmons saw something in Sullivan too — the talent and drive that they needed to solidify their rhythm section. They made some long awaited personnel changes, and the band started to come together. “It fell together perfectly,” Jody Ryan says.

The band’s luck continued when manager Tony Scavone met sound engineer Todd Harris from Str8 Up Studios in Worcester. Initially, the band headed into the studio to create a five song demo. However when they got in there, they were struck by how easily the sound was flowing.

“We didn’t even practice beforehand,” Simmons says. “But once we heard how good it sounded, we decided to keep going.”

“We got lucky with Todd. We can’t say enough good things about him,” Sullivan says, referring to the sound engineer who made Uncle Billy’s vision a reality. Scavone adamantly agrees. “With any other studio it wouldn’t have
gone so efficiently. It wouldn’t have run so smoothly.”

The resulting album will surely win over even more fans. Uncle Billy’s left their jamming tendencies behind and tightened up their sometimes lengthy songs. The result is a fun collection, with sound influences ranging from early 90s alternative rock ala Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, to an elusive Southern twang that could be likened to The Allman Brothers. The album as a whole is an uplifting fusion of jam and pop — “jampop” is a term Sullivan coined at this interview.


UBS strived to create an album of accessible songs that anyone can sing along to. And they did just that.

“We’re the working class,” Jody Ryan says. “We work all day to get by, and that comes across to the crowd. That’s why a lot of people relate to us and relate to our lyrics.”

The band has no plan to rest now that the album is completed — they have big things on the agenda for the year ahead.

“We want to sell as many albums as we can, tour as much as we can and get on the radio,” Simmons says. He’s “itchy” to get back into the studio, something the band has scheduled for August but hopes to do sooner. Simmons’s goals are echoed throughout the band — they are all determined to succeed. Uncle Billy’s will be taking the music festival route down the East Coast this spring and summer, playing at three different jam festivals. They are also eager to continue touring in cities like New York and Chicago. However, they insist that they will never lose sight of home.

“We want to remind people where music came from,” Sean Ryan says. “Music has lost its creativity. We want to bring back the art for a young audience with some real singing.”

There is no question that Jody, Sean, Brad and Steven had to be passionate about music to make it this far, since the band members have had virtually no musical training. “You can get the same knowledge on the street that you can learn in school if you put the time in,” Sean says.

“We feel the music.” - The Pulse Magazine By Kim Dunbar


Discography

3/17/05 - 'Tracks' debut LP
6/24/06 - Uncle Billy's Smokehouse 'The Blue One'

Photos

Bio

The brother duo of guitarist Sean and keyboardist Jody Ryan has revived what, to many, is a lost sound in bands today. Armed with the incomparable Janky Bones on bass and the untamable Brad Simmons on the kit, Uncle Billy's Smokehouse is roaring through the New England music scene and beyond.

Hailing from Worcester, MA this four piece rock outfit has seen their fair share of the road in the past few years. Playing shows from Burlington Vermont to New York City and down to New Orleans, the band seems to have found the path to the everlasting temple of Rock'n'Roll. The key to their success has been in their songwriting formula - mixing the substance and ideals of the 60's/70's with the aggression and intensity of our time to create music that will grab you by the throat and pull you into the speaker so you can learn the damn words.

Now playing their way through bars and halls in the Northeast Uncle Billy's Smokehouse is bringing a party to every new club they set foot in.
It was a busy year for the band and rockin out is the ultimate goal so the future is lookin pretty good. With hours upon hours of material - their 50+ original songs and covers ranging from the Beatles to the Beastie Boys - they tear through their sets and can turn any crowd into a raging, booty-shaking machine. So whether you like to get the funk out, stomp your feet, raise a fist, or just toss back a few and get a little silly, the Smokehouse can accommodate your needs.

HIGHLIGHTS '08 - '09
Worcester annual St. Patrick's Day parade (3/19) - Tammany Hall float
(That float won the Spirit Award by the way...),
The Higer Ground - Burlington, VT (4/10);
Worcester Palladium (4/12) w/ Badfish (1800+ in attendance),
Showcase Live @ Patriot's Place (9/6);
VooDoo Fest New Orleans (10/24 - 10/26);
Halloween @ Tammany Hall - Worcester, MA (10/31);
New Year's Eve @ The Middle East downstairs w/ Badfish (12/31);
The Palladium - Worcester, MA w/ Badfish (4/11) 2,000+ in attendance;
StrangeCreek Festival - Greenfield, MA (5/12)
Mechanics Hall Wonderland Music Series - Worcester, MA (7/10);
Tammany Hall Beach Party - Worcester, MA (7/31) 250+ in attendance;
The Bull Run - Shirley, MA (8/1);
Anthem Enetertainment Party Cruise - Boston, MA (8/27) Over 500 in attendance;
Wormtown Festival -
Greenfield, MA (10/18);
Halloween at The Cannery - Southbridge, MA (10/31) 200+ in attendance;
First Night - Worcester, MA (12/31)

Named in part as a tribute to their father (Uncle Billy), and a surprisingly inspirational hot-dog cart (Billi's Smokehouse) seen for sale on the side of the road in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Ryan brothers created Uncle Billy's Smokehouse in November of 2000. First formed as a classic rock cover band to feed the brothers need to play music, Uncle Billy's Smokehouse soon grew into a vehicle for Jody and Sean to explore original songs and sounds without any outside influences besides themselves.

In 2002, longing for the concrete landscape and random hostility of their hometown, the brothers Ryan returned home to Worcester, Massachusetts. Back home, Uncle Billy's Smokehouse quickly entered the New England circuit with friends and former bandmates Jon Golen (bass) and Bill Connor on drums. Infusing the varying musical tastes of each member, UBS began to churn out new songs that exposed a wide range of influences and genres, five of which were captured in the studio in the fall of 2002 for their debut EP. With live shows consisting of numerous originals and the occasional tasty cover, Uncle Billy's was quickly filling clubs throughout Central Massachusetts with some pretty rowdy crowds.

In December of 2003, UBS made a rhythm section change to old friends Matt LeBoeuf and Brad Simmons. Even more original songs began to find their ways into setlists. Life was good for UBS but there was something that was missing - a bassist from hell - and then he was sent from below. Long time Worcester musician Steven 'Janky Bones' Sullivan returned from an 8 year absence from California's Bay area. California was the perfect place for Janky to hone his skills playing a variety of styles of music. From the jam sessions with Stephen Perkins of Jane's Addiction and Banyan to the tourning funk band .dias funK, to the king of punk/jazz Willie Waldman, to the L.A. based Pop Killers with guitar great Ronnie Rey Gunn. It was time to return home to the east coast where he quickly started to admire the direction Uncle Billy's Smokehouse was taking their music.

In March of 2005 the release of their first full length album 'Tracks', has already sold over 1,500 copies without any outside help. The album has quickly gotten the band on the 'must see' list so many bands spend years attempting to reach. The album recieved a numer of very positive reviews from a v