Citizen Arms—aka Jeremy Rouse—combines blue collar, Springsteen-styled anthems with stripped down Irish ditties on his eponymous EP.
“Flag of the Bastard Sons” is something like Flogging Molly meets Iron & Wine—softly haunting and heartbreaking, but with the burning fuel of a defiant punk rocker. Rouse’s vocals are rich and gravelly, illumed by lonesome minor chords. In “Siouxland,” he opens with brightly sustained strumming, then delves into a story about lost land: “Where oldengrounds turn to battlegrounds, press your ear to the wall of sound,” he sings. “And give back what’s been given…take back what’s been taken.” It ends on a sort of chilling fadeout of American Indians wailing and drumming.
In general, Rouse rides a well-drawn line between dramatic imagery and subtle storytelling. “The Hangman’s Valley” may have more cliché tendencies clinging to images of dust and blood in order to evoke emotions, but a song like “Renegade Sea” feels authentically roused. The spastic strumming and restless harmonica emulate rollicking waves, and when he sings, “Like a star of a renegade sea, some sail away with no direction home…” it feels like an old sea shanty, conjured for the injuries of a new, tumultuous era. (Erika Fredrickson)
Citizen Arms plays the Badlander Saturday, Oct. 4, at 10 PM with The Turnoffs and Bridgebuilder. $5.