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Tyler Keith and The Apostles – Hell To Pay

Black and Wyatt Records

Rating: 13 of 13

By Tom Smith

Contributing Writer

Tyler Keith is a musician who should need no introduction, but unfortunately through no fault of his own I realize he is not a household name to many of the readers of the Vinyl Word.

The crash course in a man who I have on numerous occasions referred to as an American national musical treasure starts with Green Bay’s and my first introduction to Tyler Keith in the Summer of 1997.

The scene was the former Concert Cafe (1116 Main St.) in downtown Green Bay. It was a hot August Monday night and no one suspected that Green Bay’s love affair with The Neckbones and Tyler Keith was about to start — and continue for 26 years and counting.

The Neckbones were headlining their first appearance in Green Bay on a Monday night because their booking agent did a great job of selling me on why I couldn’t pass this opportunity up.

At the time, I had barely heard of The Neckbones, but the booking agent had a few key points that convinced me to set up this band no one knew in these parts on a Monday night. (Trust me, not the night promoters of music usually would pick to bring a virtual unknown to Green Bay).

The booking agent of course pointed out the Neckbones new album Souls On Fire was coming out about a month before the show. This album was released on Fat Possum Records, who at the time was a young record label.

Fat Possum Records might have only been in their fifth year of existence, but they had a sweet distribution deal with Epitaph Records.

Epitaph Records is a punk rock record label based in Hollywood, California and founded in 1980, who in 1997 had somehow managed to sign an incredible number of some of the best bands in the world at the time — including The Humpers, New Bomb Turks, Gas Huffer, Red Aunts, and Zeke. Along with The Neckbones, Epitaph was killing it.

The Neckbones’ booking agent sealed the deal by telling me the super high praise that Scott Drake of The Humpers was singing for this unknown band from Mississippi.

I held Scott Drake’s opinion in high regard in 1997 (in fact, I still do in 2023), so at that point I confirmed the show.

That first night The Neckbones played in Green Bay was pure musical magic.

The intense set of bluesy, garage rock with a punk aesthetic they turned in cast a spell on that small audience that has yet to be broken.

Needless to say, after that night I booked The Neckbones every single time they wanted to play Green Bay until they broke up, and after that Tyler Keith as a solo artist.

Good news everyone, Tyler Keith is still making music that does nothing to make me reconsider calling him an American national musical treasure.

Hell to Pay starts out running with rockers such as “Castaway,” and the title track “Hell To Pay.”

Both have a Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys snarl and stomp.

“Ghost Writer,” the third track, also rocks, but the tender side of Tyler comes out in this track.

To explain the range of Tyler Keith, I’m going to say at times he can remind you of the late Stiv Bators combined with the also late Townes Van Zandt (who coincidentally had albums reissued on Fat Possum records).

So, if you like your Americana that at times bleeds blues and punkish rock with great lyrics, Hell To Pay is for you.

Recorded in just two days, you can hear the urgency in the songs, and your toes never stop tapping during both sides of this album.

My favorite tracks on side two are “You missed Your Train” and “Coming Apart.”

If you want to see Tyler Keith perform songs off this album, you are in luck because Tyler Keith will be playing Day 2 of the GBUFO Fest at Badger State Brewing Company on Saturday, July 22.

Coincidentally, the artist playing right after Tyler Keith at the GBUFO Fest is the Guerrilla Teens from Portland, Oregon, whose singer is Scott Drake — the man who got Green Bay started on Tyler Keith.

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