The musical style has been familiar for over 40 years, with a wheezy-voiced singer half-reciting mouthfuls of words over his acoustic guitar playing (punctuated by the occasional blast of a harmonica), augmented by an electric bass, drums, an organ doing rhythm fills, and, now and then, an electric guitar line. That's right, it's Highway 61 Revisited-era Bob Dylan, but Ike Reilly, on his fifth full-length album of the ‘00s, isn't so much a new Dylan as he is a new Willie Nile or, given his sense of humor and devotion to the drug-addled and desperate, another Todd Snider. In these songs, the first-person narrators and other characters struggle for love (or sex, anyway), scrape out modest livings as rock & roll performers and drug dealers, and even try to raise children. As usual, there is a golden-hewed, inebriated romance to it all (which may make Reilly a new Tom Waits) that is not without its charm, even if you want to count the silverware. Reilly communes with like-minded pals Shooter Jennings (in a duet on "The War of the Terror and the Drugs") and David Lowery of Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker. By the end, on "The Golden Corner," he is trying to convince a girl named Mickey of the magic to be found in skipping out on work and walking around town. Change her name to Sandy, and Reilly's a new (young) Bruce Springsteen. The 2009 digital release of Hard Luck Stories was followed by a 2010 CD release, for which Reilly added two tracks, "Flowers on Down" and a live take of "Broken Parakeet Blues." The former added another character to his gallery of drinking buddies. "You are my only friend," he began, "Don't pass out on me now." "Broken Parakeet Blues," on which he accompanied himself only on acoustic guitar and harmonica, seemed to have an anti-war flavor without being specific.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann