Down By Law

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Down By Law

Down By Law - Down By Law ©1991 Epitaph
1. Right Or Wrong
2. Vision
3. Dreams Away
4. Down The Drain
5. American Dream
6. The Truth
7. Best Friends
8. Mat Gleason Is God
9. The One
10. Can't See It Still
11. Surf Punk
12. Too Much Grey

Though Dave Smalley has the curse of the ex-ALL singers (ie--can't hold down a band lineup), his Down By Law project is a very worthwhile project that finally uses Smalley's talents to the max. For whatever reason, his vocals didn't quite gel with ALL, but here his controlled yell/smooth melodic voice sounds completely in place with the mid-tempo songs. Naturally he picked up a studio crew that is priceless in ability with Dave Nazworthy and Ed Urlik, both of Chemical People. Match that ability with the excellent songwriting and you get an album that just smokes. Smalley's lyrics are personal and intelligent; he sings with heartfelt emotion and the harmonies are great. While not exactly the album to change the world, there is something to be said for the consistency throughout this album. Truly an underappreciated gem.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998

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Blue

Down By Law - Blue ©1992 Epitaph
1. The Last Brigade
2. Looking For Something
3. Break The Walls
4. At Home In The Wasteland
5. Rain
6. Turn Away
7. Air Conditioner
8. The Greenest Field
9. Straw
10. Our Own Way
11. Finally Here
12. Dead End

Dave Smalley's second Down By Law album is actually possibly his best. Retaining the same group of musicians from the self-titled debut, Blue (with the red cover) goes a long way in expressing whatever sentiments were on Dave's mind at the time as the help from Chemical People members Ed Urlik and Dave Nazworthy is very good. The strength of Blue lies in the honest and heartfelt songwriting throughout the record. The songs don't fall into the punk trap of sounding exactly the same from tune to tune; rather there is great variety between them. Songs like "American Dream" and "Break the Walls" have a keen understanding of good arrangement that allows for an actual climax and builds within the song. For the first time I can recall, Smalley sounds very confident in his vocal approach and sings with great conviction. His vocals are more along the lines of old Dag Nasty than, say, ALL. The album abounds with good guitar playing as well as solid rhythms from Urlik and Nazworthy. Although more of a rock album than hardcore or punk, Blue is certainly one of the best releases Smalley has ever been associated with.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2001

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500 Miles

Down By Law - 500 Miles ©1994 Epitaph Europe
1. 500 Miles
2. At Home In The Wasteland (live)
3. Down The Drain (live)

This very brief but amusing single from Down By Law finds the quartet whipping through their cover of "500 Miles" (which most listeners might have heard from the movie Benny & Joon) in typical blustery DBL fashion, eventually thrusting the song into adrenaline overdrive. The other two tracks find the Punkrockacademyfightsong lineup revisiting a couple early tracks in a live setting. The live versions are very true to the original studio counterparts and simply show Down By Law leader Dave Smalley had no difficulty finding new musicians to replace his session musician friends from the first two albums.

Not utterly necessary, but a good time single nonetheless.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2001

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All Scratched Up

Down By Law - All Scratched Up ©1996 Epitaph
1. Independence Day
2. Cheap Thrill
3. All American
4. Hell Song
5. True Believers
6. Giving It All Away
7. Gruesome Gary
8. Radio Ragga
9. Superman
10. Post Office Lament
11. Ivory Girl
12. No Has Been
13. Kevin's Song
14. True Music
15. Far And Away
16. Punks And Drunks
17. Daily Occurance
18. Neon Skies
19. Going Underground
20. Dag Punk
21. World Without Me
22. Green Hills Of Virginia

Down by Law, featuring Dave Smalley (ex-DYS, Dag Nasty, All), is what one might consider to be equation punk. All you have to do is plug in the numbers and violá! Instant song!

DBL, quite frankly, has absolutely nothing new to offer the scene. Nada. Nil. No innovative, groundbreaking songwriting or deft-defying guitar tricks. Just simple punk. And unless you're the professor from the Guitar Institute of Technology or the holy music trendsetters at Alternative Press, this music is good, fun hop-up-and-down punk like Grandpa used to play (providing Grandpa was in Stiff Little Fingers or the Ramones).

Most of Dave's songs are the rally-around-the-ol-punk-flag type. (See "True Music" or "Goin' Underground" for reference.) There's the obligatory war-sucks song "Kevin's Song" and another depicting a childhood bully, "Gruesome Gary.".

While you might not hear anything complex (especially not in the hidden joke song "Counting Crows Must Die"), you will soon be singing right along with the album in your car and all the other drivers will enviously yearn to be having as much fun as you. And hey, isn't FUN still an integral part of punk?

P.S. Vinyl collectors finally get a treat: six songs only released on the gatefold LP. Featuring some of the best cuts on the album, Dave gives vinyl fans an honest bonus.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1996

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