Define: Semper liberi. Answer: “Always Free.” It’s a good motto to have, it’s something that can mean many things to many people. Whether it’s free from worries or free from the shackles of life, there’s no doubt that you should always be free to do whatever you want to do. But what does it mean to Blacklist Royals? Aside from being the title of their debut album for Paper + Plastick Records, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say “always free to rock your ass off.” That’s exactly what this album does and it does so with a little bit of Southern charm.
Known as the Blacklist Royals since 2006, this 5-piece “punk-n-roll” band from Nashville play country tinged punk rock songs that are as perfect for a road trip cross-country as they are for a night of sharing brews with your buddies.
It’s hard to deny that these guys are hard working individuals, it shows throughout the album. There’s a noticeable country tinge to the music but it’s not overbearing. Rather, it’s something that allows them to create a sound that’s totally their own. Gathering inspiration from 60’s music, punk, and country, each individual genre shines through in Semper Liberi. While you’d probably think that a punk album can’t include piano, these guys show you that you’re dead wrong.
The album starts off at a high tempo and doesn’t let up. Whether it’s Nat’s rough vocals or the melodies emanating from the guitars & piano, the music hooks you. From the opening track of No Looking Back, the band lays out the blueprint for what this album is about. Taking a queue from the name of the album, Nat ends the song with “Maybe we can find a way to be free.” For the next 35 minutes, they will sing songs about life. From songs about touring, come out to California, being away from home and not wanting to come back, to girls and just enjoying life, the Blacklist Royals let you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and you wouldn’t want it any other way.
One of the things that impressed me the most about this band is their instrumentation. A lot of bands tend to use keyboards as a gimmick. Whether it’s to create some far-out synth sound, or to do something that [they think] other bands aren’t doing, Blacklist Royals use the keys in the way they’re meant to be used and in some songs, it completely steals the show.
The stand out track Tennessee Blues is a great example of how the keys are used perfectly. It’s a song about not wanting to go home after tour and instead just keep driving. The piano comes in, sort of honkey tonk-like, and adds a completely different dimension to the song. As they name off each state that they pass through and the verse gets closer to the chorus, the piano builds and then it explodes as Nat belts out the chorus. It’s my favorite track and, in my opinion, the best song on the album and allows the guys to show you their musicianship.
Semper Liberi is an album that will make you feel like you should always be on a road trip, or on the road. Having recently completed one myself, I was blasting this album at least once through each state I passed by. It’s just that good, no matter where you’re from or what your preference of music is. When you pay closer attention to the lyrics, you can’t help but want to sing along to the choruses. If you want to hear a style of music that you’ve never heard before, give these guys a listen and I guarantee you’ll become a fan of Blacklist Royals and their brand of Southern, country infused punk-n-roll.