Red Collar’s 2009 debut, Pilgrim, was a criminally overlooked collection of ragged-around-the-edges punk wrinkled by twinges of shotgun twang and post-hardcore barbs. The Durham, North Carolina, band’s second full-length, Welcome Home, is just as gritty. Frontman Jason Kutchma has one of music’s great grizzled singing voices—think Brian Fallon with a cigarette-and-whiskey habit like that of Ben Nichols—and “American Me” and “Dodge K” are rock anthems infused with a freewheeling bar-band spirit. Still, the rickety chaos of Pilgrim is reined in and refined on Welcome Home, which allows Red Collar to expand their sound. The affecting “Losing My Accent” is low-lit indie rock which grapples with homesickness and loss, while the Springsteen-esque “The Old Piano Roll” uses the presence of the instrument as a redemptive salve for a fractured family (“Everything gonna be all right/We got a piano for one more night/Dance little sister, sing little brother/Gonna be all right tonight”). The album ends on an even higher note: The soul-blustered title track sprinkles pensive piano together with searing guitar riffs, as Kutchma extols the virtues of a beloved home—warts and all. With any luck, every fan of the Hold Steady, Titus Andronicus and the Gaslight Anthem will buy Welcome Home—and make Red Collar as huge as they deserve to be.
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