For those who recognize Anton Kellner from his days as the abrasive front man for the hardcore outfit Holding On To Hope are likely to be in for a shock when they hear his honeyed, alt-country outpourings on You Were The Fire, the debut album from multi-instrumentalist Kellner and his Lone Star backing band, comprised of Josh Lucas and Nolan Perry.
Add to that the guest spots from ex-Taking Back Sunday guitarist Fred Mascherino and (on 2012’s rockier Sequences EP) Dropkick Murphys’ vocalist Tim Brennan, and you’d expect a heavier sound, a mash up of Celtic-punk and belligerent emo; but this is an altogether tamer, and safer, endeavour.
The uplifting tinkle of banjo strings that runs through the album creates an undercurrent of southern warmth on what is essentially a guitar-driven soft rock album. Not to be confused with the Garth-Brooks-esque band of a similar name, Anton Kellner and the Lone Stars have taken their cues from folk, Americana and alternative indie, producing an album that lies somewhere between Ryan Adams, My Morning Jacket and Noel Gallagher.
The strongest moments can be found when the band lean heavily on their Lone Star moniker and let the banjo and lap-guitar take centre stage. Anton Kellner and the Lone Stars have made a modern Americana album with indie-rock sensibilities; honest and authentic, displaying a strong appreciation of the music of the southern states but not relying on it.
This series of songs, with its strong lyrics, harmonious strings and plenty of ear-worm sing-alongs, would be perfect around campfire under the Milky Way, the glow of the fire lighting up your whiskey-reddened cheeks. Unassuming and wholesome, You Were the Fire might not break any new musical ground – indeed, it glories in never straying from already well-trodden tracks – but it’s great to hear Anton Kellner in a new light, a world away from his angry and guttural beginnings.