The Rise of the AZ New School: Part II – featuring Big Finish

Sometime over the last three decades, with bands like Sand Rubies, Dead Hot Workshop, Sidewinders, Gin Blossoms, Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, Pistoleros, Satellite, The Refreshments, Tramps & Thieves…. the world started to take notice of this little genre called Southwestern Rock.  In his most recent interview with Roger Clyne, Ed Masely touches on this when he and Roger discuss the fusion of punk and country with The Refreshments and what I would add is the fusion of country and punk with The Peacemakers.  It is a sound.  It’s just enough country for your significant other, and just enough rock for you. That sound… is the heart & soul of Arizona music.

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

This pulse… is continued… fanned back into a flame… and that sound…. that defining sound.. rises like a Phoenix with such a nod to those days on Mill, at Nita’s, at the Electric Ballroom, but with something new… something modern with Big Finish‘s fantastic debut album Everything I Need.  That’s quite a build up, right!  But, I promise you…. come to The Release Show at Last Exit Live THIS SATURDAY and you will not be disappointed!


So let’s get to it!

The Ghost Writer Review of Everything I Need

by Phoenix artist, Big Finish

David Rhodes is a hell of a songwriter.  Let’s just get that right out front.  The songs on this record are tight, sometimes a bit tongue-in-cheek with wit, and other times poignant.  But what makes it a great record, you know… one of those albums you can just listen to, all day…. is that it never gets tired, or bogged down.  It is not overly thematic, overly analytical, or inciting of outcry.  But it feels real, and it feels close.  Like your own inner dialog, or a great conversation with a good friend over a beer.  In short, as far as just a great, kicking, listen to it because you-love-music-wanna-sing-along-tap-your-foot-and-maybe-do-a-lic-or-two-on-the-air-guitar record… it is everything {you} need.

Everything I Need:  Getting back to Southwestern Rock, you pop in the CD and the title track starts off, and the first question that pops into mind is, “Is this a country band?”  Then all of a sudden it isn’t.  All it takes is everything that you need/ there is no book with the knowledge that you seek / After 38 years I worked against the grain / Only to find myself questioning if I’m insane.  But as I am led down that mental slope that takes me to Dead Hot, Babb, and everything I love about him, the drums are popping, the lead guitar is surging, and I am realizing, that once again I am dancing on someone’s pain.

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Circle’s End:  Again, the song starts out like country, but this time it is an old style ballad, almost Marty Robbins-eque old school, and then again, it isn’t.

“As an aside, let’s talk Big Finish guitars.  There are some great guitar players in town.  Of the old school, just to name a few, you have guys like Jim Dalton, Brian Blush, and Steve Larson.  Of the New School you have guys like Travis Prillaman (Ali A & the Agency), Nick Sterling (Wyves), and Matt Lloyd (New Chums).  This album quickly puts Tony Burns on a scale with a guy like Yod Paul (Sara Robinson Band) in terms of bridging the gap.  Soaring leads, skilled playing, combines with the great songwriting to give each song depth and breadth.”

I’ll hurt you one more time if you let me / I’ll shower you with lies in the backseat/ I’ll take em all back with a tear/ And then I’ll turn around and do it all over again.  And as guilty as my sentimentality might make me, all I really wanna do is get my boots on the dance floor!

Leech:  Then you aren’t in country vibe anymore.  The simple start to this song almost bleeds Nirvana maybe a bit of Green Day…. and then this sonic guitar-string grind and those drums!  Speaking of drums – they pop on this record more than any other locally produced record I have heard outside of Flying Blanket Recording.  (Bob Hoag knows drums and the tones he gets in that house….. are insane.  But these drums, make me feel that throbing kick, that smashing snare in almost Flying Blanket kinda way.  Great Drum tracking on this album!  Kudos Curtis Grippe !)

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Anywhere But Here:  This song is rockin country.  Straight up.  But onlike everything on KNIX FM or KMLE Country it isn’t pop with a twang.  That is the beauty of this thing called Southwestern Rock.  It is blues and rock infused country with some punk roots.  Modern radio country is pop with a twang trying to get cool pictures with lead guitar players.  Everything from our neck of the Independent Woods….. rings with more authenticity than that shit right out of the damn box!

The conversation about pain birthing art is everywhere.  One does not need to search the interwebs for long to find any number of pieces that talk about the creative inspiration of negative events.  This too is a theme that has come up quite often in my writing and interviews.  Both Fairy Bones and Charles Ellsworth (who incidentally was one of my high school English students) have inspired articles dealing with this exact same Broken phenomenon.  Why not take a piece of me/ And watch it fall apart/ Watch it fall apart.  I am reminded of something David told me while he was describing the writing of this record.

“It was not easy to get to this point, personally.  Family death, job loss, it was a hard earned result.  It was a sad realization in the recording of this record, that I could have done it years prior… one song at a time.  However, I do believe the collection of songs had more consistency because they were tracked together.”

In just this short statement, David hit on a few topics that have been at the forefront of my mind lately.  First, the dialog about the business of releasing music.  Corey Gloden and I discussed it, and I referenced again when looking at Jane ‘n the Jungle‘s body of work over the last two years.  It is very interesting to look at what bands (read: small businesses) are doing in this changing environment of streaming, album sales, and music revenue.  Second, the idea of turning personal pain, tragedy, and heartbreak into music that we find ourselves unashamedly dancing to, tapping our feet, and loving to listen to.  This exact same idea came up in my recent review of Harper & the Moths new record, Dark Enough to Dance.

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

Tramp:  I have a really hard time choosing my favorite track on this record, but this one is in top three.  It is the anthem to every broken-hearted, romantic dude who fell for the wrong girl.  It is Robert Redford losing his baseball career to The Lady in Black in The Natural.

It hurts.  And in the end, all you can really do, when you are one of those left behind good guys, is hope the bullet doesn’t stop you from knocking it out of the park later and say, But you’ll throw them away / What you are gonna want someday / Nothing left to say / You’re just the tramp that got away.

David and I were messaging back and forth as I was listening, taking notes, and preparing to write this review.  We were talking about this town, this scene, and the old days.  The guy has been around this town, playing music, haunting the bars, playing the scene since his first band circa 1995, The Codependents.  By 1998, he had changed things up and was playing as American Standard.  Then…. my friends, the reason the history of this town is SO DAMN IMPORTANT if you wanna write about its music….. this happened.

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

David:  The fact that we never completed a record before haunts me.  I took some time off at about 2002 for a family.  This Big Finish record is my first album.

Ryan:  You know, that brings up part of my conversation with Brent Babb in our interview, and he was talking about his advice to every single band was to be sure to record.  Leave it for history.  He has so many wonderful memories of bands that he saw, that he experienced….. but will never hear again.  Nothing is recorded.

David:  I love that guy.  Brent played our renewing of vows for my wife and my 15th anniversary, and Dead Hot Workshop played her surprise 25th birthday party.  Satellite and Gloritone were two of the few bands that gave American Standard a chance, then Stephen Ashbrook had us open at Bash on Ash for the B-sides tour with Sherman.

Ryan: Oh My God!  I was at that show!

And folks…. that.  That is the secret to everything that I have going on, why I write, and why I am having such a killer time.  You cannot learn your way into the fabric of a town.  You can get close.  You can taste it.  You can lick at it with your tongue and try to grasp its flavor.  But…. I was there.  And I remember.  And the music of this town has been the through-line in my life.

Photo Credit: Scott Shore

No Home:  As I was listening to No Home, the whimsy in my brain kept hearing another song, from a Tempe great, that told a similar story.  But Robin is telling the story of leaving Tempe, and going to California in Mega Pawn King, and David is not leaving, but realizing that Mill Avenue of yesteryear is gone, and what replaced it, is not home.  The place that is just Not home anymore / When all it’s soul has been sold.  And the pain of the past, the wooden cross on the door that protects the home but not you anymore, tarnishes what was once beautiful.  It’s pretty pictures, naked lots, and all I can see is stuck behind the concrete lines of greed and industry.  And so you walk away.  And Don’t regret it / Don’t resist it / Don’t forget it / But don’t relieve it.  By the way, this is a great tune, easy top 3.

Interesting side note…. sometimes I surprise myself with the simple little things that I don’t know.  I have all this depth of Arizona Music soaked into my world, and then David Rhodes says something about half of the drumming on Everything I Need, which I was already raving about, being done by him brother Phillip.


Yes.  That Phillip.  Mind Blown!  Well done David.  It does not happen often!  LOL

Don’t Wanna Wait:  This is the part of the article where I go out on a limb, but this song kind of channels The Cars for me.  Just a bit, say a song like Just What I Needed.  It is poppy.  It has this very specific cadence to the lyrics.  It has a simple drum intro to set the beat, and changes it all up on the chorus.  It feels like that kind of 80s rock, that era, not hairband, still alternative, not synthy at all…. but it kind of lays down that vibe, and I like it!

Stand or Crawl:  The journey that Big Finish has been taking you on, dancing, singing, and not realizing where you are going…. starts to come full circle here in these last few songs.  We have come through the heart break.  We have come through the isolation.  But now comes the questioning of ourselves…. Walking the line you’re bound to stumble / Finding the words you’re bound to mumble / Talking the walk / Make it the high road / Holding on with such a strong hold / Failed to believe that it’s / All wrong / Too strong.  Fear is part of this journey.  And it is something intrinsic to being human… and feeling.  That fear… of being hurt, is part of the journey.  But there is Nothing left to do but choose / Stand or crawl.

Big Finish is one of those bands that showcases a second generation rising out of Phoenix who were very much influenced and molded by the first wave of the Tempe Explosion.  The second wave is happening right now, all over Phoenix!  But when you start tracing the genealogy in our musical family the connections start to come out VERY quickly.  As I showcased in my article The Rise of the AZ New School, and will continue here: observe.

The Black Moods / Gin Blossoms  Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

Big Finish / Dead Hot Workshop  Gin Blossoms

Ghetto Cowgirl / Pistoleros  Dead Hot Workshop  Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers

Jim Bachmann & the Day Drinkers /  Greyhound Soul (Joe Pena)  Pistoleros  (Mark Zubia)

The Real Fakes / Chalmer’s Green  The Black Moods

Murphy’s Outlaw / The Refreshments”

See what I mean?  The family tree is quite impressive.

From My Knees:  Then…. from that place…. broken and down…. on your knees and waiting for another kick in the face… with a Southwestern Rock beat and a country rockin vibe…. David sings a song about learning how to keep falling, seeing the world from your knees, but being ready to keep getting up to do it all over again.  Which paves the way…. to listening to music…. and eyes…. again.

Dance With Me:  The final song of the Top 3, but like I said…. It’s damn hard to choose!  In two of my most recent articles, I have explored the idea of a concept album.  With Schizophrenic Zen (The Bellwethers) I find a complete concept album, one that tells a story of a character that is larger than each of its individual parts.  This is different than a thematic album, or one that has a cohesiveness, but is telling more of a personal journey or story, rather than a metaphorical one.  In my review of Concrete Jungle (Jane ‘n the Jungle), my daughter and I examine the difference.

Speaking of cohesiveness.  Remember David saying that he regretted not releasing singles along the way, but he felt it lent a solid cohesiveness to Everything I Need?  This is 100% true.  This is not a concept album.  You could pretend / You don’t care what I’m saying / Your eyes, eyes speak the truth / Come over this way / I promise I won’t mess around/ When you’re my girl / So come Dance with Me / I know you like this song/ The night is young so don’t spend it alone.  It is a journey… from Darkness and Pain… to being ready, willing, and excited to Dance Again.  And it does it while keeping us moving, keeping us smiling, and coming back for more!


BUY THIS ALBUM.  I loved it.  Get It.




Keep the Greasy Side Down, my friends.


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