You wouldn't want to take a dissection knife to Old Man Markley's songs, or write a serious paper on the meaning behind the lyrics. Take "Blood On My Hands," in which each line is a cliché: "When it rains it pours. We don't know what lays in store. Too much weight is going to bring her down. We got blood on our hands." It's almost so overdone that making it a song about well-worn sayings would have been a brilliant jokethe blood on our hands being a wink at beating the language to death.
But, look, I don't think Old Man Markley set out to become the next Bob Dylan, so who cares? The LA punkgrass band's recent release, Down Side Up, deftly weaves punk-soaked harmonies with galloping banjo playing, and when the lyrics do come in, the music carries them along like a river in a spring flood. The political anthem "America's Dreaming" balances rhetoric like "Think twice! Right now it's up to you and me!" with more striking imagery about Americans chasing a horse on a "debt carousel."
More important, this music is for dancing. It's to be heard live while jumping up and down in a crowd of fans who know all the words. It's affirmative and cathartic, no matter which way you dissect it.
Old Man Markley opens for Reverend Horton Heat and the Nekromantix at the Top Hat Sun, Jan. 12. Doors at 7:30 PM, show at 8:30. $22/$18 advance.