When I started this album, there was a bit of hope. The guitar sounded a bit like how Tom Scott‘s cover of “Today” does, so I thought “okay, it’s still true to what Everlast has done in the last 10 years but still subliminally showing a hip-hop influence. Then the slide guitar comes in and I immediately think of Led Zeppelin‘s “Tangerine”. Then he starts to sing, and Everlast now sounds like a very scruffy bluesman, as if he has been through incredible pain and suffering, and music is his outlet. I like that, and the feel of the song (with the aforementioned references) encouraged me to hear more.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get better for me. Songs Of The Ungrateful Living (Martyr Inc.) is not a bad album, but it’s not something I would want to listen to repeatedly. It carries on the vibe he has been comfortable in since Whitey Ford Sings The Blues, so if you like that or what Kid Rock has become, or Uncle Cracker, you’ll like this. There’s even a song here that sounds like a continuation of “What It’s Like”, so that might help put this into radio rotation. That is, any radio stations left that would give Everlast and this album a shot.
Here’s what I did like. I liked the lyrics a lot as he reflects on what he has been through in his life and how he has become a survivor. I also liked the music he plays and is backed up by. There are subtle hip-hop references throughout, but this is not a hip-hop album at all, although by the time the album comes to a close with “Even God Don’t Know” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”, I hear the Everlast of yesteryear, but not a complete return.
I’ve been a fan of Everlast’s since “I Got The Knack”, loved all the work he did as being a part of Ice-T‘s Rhyme Syndicate way back when, enjoyed the first House Of Pain album. I liked it when he returned with the Whitey Ford vibe, and obviously an artist and person changes with time, which means his music is always evolving, or at least moving forward. To me, I hear Everlast staying true to his calling as an artist, but also doing the things that will make people remember what he became known for. People love “Jump Around” but there are arguably more who loved “What It’s Like”. He has gained a lot of fans since then, and they’re going to hear an album with a lot of emotion and strength. For me though, I find myself hearing it and wanting to play the executive producer role so I can suggest how it can be better. Some of these songs would have been nice if there was a response back from a woman, whether it’s meant to be the sensitive side to the story, or a rough and rugged woman ready to join or affirm Everlast’s life and musical journey. While it may not be an album for me, fans of his post-Whitey Ford work will welcome this in a big way, so to his grateful fans, here’s to Living.