Hailing from the lush moors of New Jersey, the Rusty Nails play some of the finest bagpipe-laden rock since AC/DC commandeered the instrument for one of rock's most famous song intros. While the bagpipes are obviously the first thing one notices about the Rusty Nails, surprisingly it doesn't seem gimmicky or contrived. Frontman/ bagpipe player/ Nails mastermind Brett Alexander Boye (such formal liner notes) is in fact a trained player, having done time in respected troupes, which means he plays the instrument with skill and respect -- very important, as few sounds are more painful than poorly played bagpipes. Other instruments, like the acoustic guitars of "Danny's Last Hurrah," add to the Scottish feel introduced by the bagpipes, but the Rusty Nails are also a decidedly rocking band. An unusual, interesting, and rather endearing balance of musical styles. While Boye released an album on his own (under the unappetizing moniker Haggis), this is his second outing with the Rusty Nails in tow (though it is still very clearly Boye's show). No Miracle in Ruins is an exceptionally well-produced slab of wax, especially considering that it was released through the very indie Coolidge Records, home of acts like Soccer, Lancaster County Prison, and Plow United. Forgoing the obligatory Pogues and Dropkick Murphys comparisons, the songs tend to come across as boisterous pub chants, fueled by Boye's unique vocals -- an affable mix of Mighty Mouse opera, Joy Division warble, and, well, yelling with a vaguely Scottish accent. "Oblivion" and "This Dirty Water" (the latter using a vocal riff that sounds a little like "Walk Like an Egyptian") are strong, pretty straightforward rock songs, while the quite lovely "Wake My Heart" and "Stowaway" have the feel of old Celtic ballads, but with a twist.
Likely the best representation of the Rusty Nails' sound is "Gone," which features bagpipes used as a rock instrument alongside "China Grove"-esque electric guitars in a manner that is so natural and effortless it almost seems odd that more bands haven't attempted it. Perhaps it is this very thing that makes the Rusty Nails so charming: they make it all seem so easy. Lyrically, the Rusty Nails tend to paint grim, working-class pictures of broken hearts and life's general ups and downs, but in the end you get the feeling that the songs aren't meant to be depressing, but uplifting, like "We've all been there, and we'll all make it through." Cheers.