When The Buffalo News unleashed its list of ‘Bands to Watch’ in 2009, burgeoning Country-rock outfit Ransomville was notably absent from the proceedings. Despite opening for the likes of James Otto, Charlie Daniels and David Allan Coe, this fiery quintet with energy to burn couldn’t fight their way into mainstream consciousness. They had the look, urgency and appetizingly antithetical sound to separate them from the pack but, for some reason, local media didn’t want to bite.
To put it mildly, the idea of their brand being anything but your grandmother’s Country music has positioned them in a realm void of trite classification and old-school sticklers just can’t have that.
About halfway through their set at Club Paradise in Blasdell on Saturday, I experienced what Jules Winnfield of “Pulp Fiction” would refer to as a “moment of clarity.” As someone who has never been particularly fond of country music in any way, shape or form, I came to the realization that the genre once defined by whiny relationship yarns and small-town axioms doesn’t have to suck. What these guys brought to the table is a reminder that no matter how banal a scene appears to be, all it takes is one ambitious young band to come along and inject the industry with a much-needed sense of direction.
Ransomville consists of lead vocalist Dan McClurg, guitarists Rob Burgio and John Rosini (both formerly of Seven Day Faith), bassist Josh Long and drummer Johnny Misso. I had the opportunity to speak with the guys prior to Saturday’s show and found their humility to be most engaging as they plowed through whatever questions came their way.
Although it was only 12 minutes, I got the sense that if they continue down their current path, they could easily find themselves in the thick of things come late 2010.
Then again, don’t take my word for it. Here’s what they had to say:
Question: How did you guys decide on the name Ransomville?
Burgio: I think it was the phrase “held for ransom” that initially drew our attention and we threw ‘ville’ behind it to make it sound country, because that’s what we are. It has nothing to do with the town of the same name as none of us are from there, so we just thought it sounded Country-rock and stuck with it.
Question: Who are some of your major influences?
Rosini: Anything from 80s hair bands and classic rock to my earlier involvement with the pop scene.
McClurg: I grew up with more traditional Country artists like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, but I also enjoy modern acts like Kenny Chesney.
Burgio: We’re not trying to do this or that. We’re just trying to write a good song and we have a very Country vocalist so, no matter what we do, it’s going to sound Country.
Question: How do you think being in western New York has impacted your ability to make it within the country scene?
Burgio: So far, so good. The good thing is that we’re one of the only original Country bands around that pushes their own music and prints their own records. A lot of bands appear to be focusing on covering Country, which is great, but our aim has always been we’ll do our own music and then add a few covers along the way. We stick to the integrity of what we do and everything else is secondary. Luckily, the response has been unbelievable. Our fan base is growing, the CDs are selling, it’s great. Of all the bands I’ve been in, it’s amazing how rapidly people are attaching themselves and wanting to help us out.
Misso: We have heavy rock fans that are into this band. People from all genres of music are calling us saying ‘I love your stuff and I don’t even like Country.’
Burgio: Yeah, I mean all throughout Wyoming County we’re building a strong following and every show gets busier and busier. Dan’s from there, so they already know him as a vocalist and putting him together with our band has been terrific.
McClurg: From what I’ve seen, people love the screaming guitars and intricate soloing, so if we throw a strong Country lyric on top of that, you can’t beat us.
Question: Where do you get your main inspiration for songwriting?
Burgio: Women. I know it sounds cliché as hell, but it really is that simple.
McClurg: I think one of my goals is to acknowledge the people fighting overseas because, if it weren’t for them, some of us may be drafted out right now.
Burgio: We didn’t finish the CD and say we’re done. We continued to write while the record was being finished and I truly believe our songwriting can come from anything. We’re looking for a label to come in with some money and guidance to bring out the best we have to offer.
Question: Would you say the crowds have been more male or female?
Burgio: It’s a good mix with different age groups as well. I mean, we’ve seen an 80-year-old grandma out there having a good time, so it’s certainly a variety.
Question: Are there any mainstream bands that you look at and say “We’re just as good as they are?” If so, what are they?
Burgio: You have artists like Jack Ingram, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean, but not too many bands. That’s what I grew up with, that’s what I live for. I think the industry is screaming for a real band to come out that has personality and can connect itself to the audience.
Rosini: There really aren’t too many bands at the moment. You have Rascal Flatts, but they’re a trio and we’re actually a rock band.
Burgio: There’s no doubt in my mind that we can hang with anybody.