Artist: Lisa Gain & the Rusty Silos
Album / Label: Lisa Gain & the Rusty Silos / Unsigned
Rating: 7.5 / 10
The last time we checked in with singer/songwriter Lisa Gain, she had just released a new single and was finishing up work on her first full length LP with her band, Lisa Gain & the Rusty Silos. She is joined in that project by drummer Bryan Rupejko and bassist James “JB” Boza. Gain says the band’s name is actually derived from two rusty silos that were at the farm she grew up on.
With the career that she has piloted over the last two decades, it amazes me that this is Gain’s first full-length LP. You can find her all over YouTube, singing covers and original material, and if it weren’t for the pandemic you could probably find her performing around town on a weekly basis. I was honored when Gain reached out to me to do a review for the record, as she has been one of my favorite singers in Columbus for many years.
The album is unique in that it is almost a “greatest hits” style record. Although several of the songs have never been recorded, Gain has been performing many of them for over two decades. The songs are featured on the record in chronological order of when they were written, dating from 1998-2018.
We start with Obsession, a soft and unassuming opener, with a striking cello featured throughout. Gain says she wrote the song way back in 1998, and you can immediately feel the twang of earnestness in her voice. The cellist you hear, Jonathan Kampfe, was actually touring with another popular local act, Starset, when he recorded his parts.
Natural High has a more upbeat feel to it, with the addition of Joey Rauckis’ electric guitar to go with Gain’s acoustic. One of the many clever quirks that Gain works into her music is her own harmonies. Although her voice may be a little deeper than some, she is still able to blend and fold it together into quite a tapestry.
The third track on the album is titled Honesty, and on the record it says it is dedicated to the music family. The quiver in Gain’s voice would place her squarely in the middle of the Lilith Fair folk revival in the late 1990s. And while she may not have the fame of Fiona Apple or Tracy Chapman, her voice rivals any of her sisterly compatriots. It may not be the best track on the record, but damn that girl can sing.
Time 4 You showcases Boza’s bass, bouncing up and down the scale with Rupejko and Gain. Surface continues the upbeat soundscape, exploring Gain’s introspective writing style while keeping your head nodding. I’ve seen her perform this one live before, and it’s definitely one of my favourites.
Although the songs are featured chronologically on the record, The Way You Said Goodbye is the perfect second part to Surface. The electric guitar featured on the chorus is played by Ryan Larzelere, and helps the accentuate Gain’s anger and pain on the track. It’s certainly the best one-two punch you’ll find on the record.
Best in Me takes a different direction, with Gain again digging into her own soul and speaking about a tentative soulmate, singing “you mean the world to me, cuz you bring out the best in me.” The song featured the most moving parts of anything previously featured, with a new cello bringing an ambient hum to the track.
If you’ve heard any song by the Rusty Silos before, it was probably Two Packs of Cigarettes, winner of the 2014 Ohio Music Award for Best Americana Song. The song talks about a father figure whose life was crushed and recycled by his first wife leaving him, and how it affected the relationship between him and the singer. It’s the type of song that wouldn’t surprise you if Gain was singing along with Melissa Etheridge.
What If You Leave again touches on a difficult relationship. “What if you leave me? Where will my heart go? What if you leave me, God I hope that I never know…” she croons with a tinge and twang that would make Alanis Morissette cheer. Who hurt you like this, Lisa?
On Rusty Silo, you’re greeted with a violin and some splashy cymbals, as Gain brings the tempo down a few notches. Gain says that there are so many talented musicians in Columbus that she doesn’t ever need to look elsewhere for the proper instruments in her songs. For this track, Chris Shaw (of Topher James and Biscuit Brigade) plays the mournful violin.
Larzelere’s guitar surfaces again on Haunted Hotel, a curious track that also features Gain playing keys. It’s unlike anything else on the record, but it doesn’t feel out of place due to Gain’s clever wit and soulful quavering. I don’t usually think of folk music as overly entertaining, but this is another one that’s worth a few listens due to its intriguing nature and bounce.
Pretty Horses and Oh My Heart are the two most recent tracks, and both feature twinkling piano notes, showing both maturity and experimentation on Gain and Company’s part. Oh My Heart has an extra dose of syrup on her voice and promises to leave you wishing there were a few more tracks to follow it up.
What is to be said about an album that encompasses 20 years of songwriting? There are highs and lows, and in-between you feel like you’ve been driven through the heart with a stake. Gain herself has always been able to uniquely capture emotional moments and turn them into song, be it in her solo career or with the Rusty Silos.
Props to Scioto Records for making the record sound as good as any other folk/Americana act you hear on alternative radio these days. Every instrument on the record was placed accordingly, and I can tell you from personal experience that the group can easily replicate anything they’ve recorded.
Although they weren’t able to play their release show in July, hopefully the band will be able to get back on the road again and start making memories anew.
- Natural High
- Time 4 You
- The Surface
- The Way You Said Goodbye
- Best in Me
- Two Packs of Cigarettes
- What If You Leave
- Rusty Silo
- Haunted Hotel
- Pretty Horses
- Oh My Heart