Ike Reilly: Born on Fire

In his 2015 offering, rock 'n' roll troubadour Ike Reilly defines the genre, and then some.

Ike Reilly

Born on Fire

Label: Rock Ridge
US Release Date: 2015-06-16
UK Release Date: 2015-06-16
Artist website

Ever since the release of his debut album Salesmen and Racists back in the day, it was clear that Ike Reilly would stray the way of the rock 'n' roll troubadour: never quite famous, but always the fringe realist demanding universal respect within his niche in the musical world. 15 years and six albums later — both with and without his band the Assassination — Reilly’s still got this description finely emblazoned on all that he does, acting as a true trailblazer of the industry in his own right. Crafting his own space somewhere between the cockles of rock and roll roots throughout the past decade and a half, his sound comes to a whole on the fantastic Born on Fire: a culmination of his years recording and performing that totally embrace his well-worn policy of “quality over quantity.”

As far as his overarching body of work is concerned, Reilly’s sonic indelibility only remains second fiddle to his astounding ability to craft a personal story and envelop it in song. It’s in tracks such as opener “Born on Fire”, from which the album takes its title, that it becomes evident why comparisons between Reilly and Bob Dylan don’t seem quite so alien. “I can’t leave you no money,” he forthrightly sings with a no-nonsense, at-ease rigidness to his vocal, “I can’t leave you no land / I can’t leave you no faith / I lost what little I had...But I can leave you this truth / Hold on to desire / And take your flames to the streets / ‘Cause you were born on fire". Ending the track with an expansive chorus, Reilly strikes a unique chord by wrapping a song in such forthright, auspicious favor.

Also of prominence among the more roots-flavored offerings on the record is “Am I Still the One For You”. At first featuring a simplistic acoustic melody stamped out by a guitar that evolves into full instrumentation with a clap-along groove, Reilly inhabits the song as snugly as a good winter coat. With a little grit, he delivers as many frank, often socially stringent truths to a perceived love, asking of them bluntly: “Am I still the one for you?” What truly makes the song shine is in the way that Reilly so easily takes on the song. By all means, it’s a relaxed, danceable folk rock-feeling number, but lyrically, it’s taken to a one-part optimism, two-parts cynicism area that Reilly and few other modern artists know how to occupy so comfortably.

Closing track “Paradise Lane” takes a similar route in those vocal regards as “Am I Still the One for You”, but culminates with the choral genius of the titular “Born on Fire”, with Tom Morello’s brilliant signature work on electric guitar driving it home as an easy rocker tinged with psychedelics not previously seen within Reilly’s 15 years of prolific work. Other tracks that are especially of note include the strong funk-driven groove of “Job Like That (Laselle & Grand)” and the DJ-led “Do the Death Slide!”, the latter of which strongly accentuates Reilly’s special knack for slipping into character before rocking out at full force. It isn’t that Reilly can go toe-to-toe and win with modern day incarnations of those whom he’s often compared to — artists like the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Bob Dylan — but that he could easily go head-to-head with them and still put up one heck of a fight. Born on Fire accentuates that fact to a great degree, and as far as this year’s rock offerings go, you’d be hard-pressed to find much better.





'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.


Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.


Country Music's John Anderson Counts the 'Years'

John Anderson, who continues to possess one of country music's all-time great voices, contemplates life, love, mortality, and resilience on Years.


Rory Block's 'Prove It on Me' Pays Tribute to Women's Blues

The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 3, Echo & the Bunnymen to Lizzy Mercier Descloux

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part three with Echo & the Bunnymen, Cabaret Voltaire, Pere Ubu and more.


Wendy Carlos: Musical Pioneer, Reluctant Icon

Amanda Sewell's vastly informative new biography on musical trailblazer Wendy Carlos is both reverent and honest.


British Folk Duo Orpine Share Blissful New Song "Two Rivers" (premiere)

Orpine's "Two Rivers" is a gently undulating, understated folk song that provides a welcome reminder of the enduring majesty of nature.


Blesson Roy Gets "In Tune With the Moon" (premiere)

Terry Borden was a member of slowcore pioneers Idaho and a member of Pete Yorn's band. Now he readies the debut of Blesson Roy and shares "In Tune With the Moon".


In 'Wandering Dixie', Discovering the Jewish South Is Part of Discovering Self

Sue Eisenfeld's Wandering Dixie is not only a collection of dispatches from the lost Jewish South but also a journey of self-discovery.


Bill Withers and the Curse of the Black Genius

"Lean on Me" singer-songwriter Bill Withers was the voice of morality in an industry without honor. It's amazing he lasted this long.


Jeff Baena Explores the Intensity of Mental Illness in His Mystery, 'Horse Girl'

Co-writer and star Alison Brie's unreliable narrator in Jeff Baena's Horse Girl makes for a compelling story about spiraling into mental illness.


Pokey LaFarge Hits 'Rock Bottom' on His Way Up

Americana's Pokey LaFarge performs music in front of an audience as a way of conquering his personal demons on Rock Bottom.


Joni Mitchell's 'Shine' Is More Timely and Apt Than Ever

Joni Mitchell's 2007 eco-nightmare opus, Shine is more timely and apt than ever, and it's out on vinyl for the first time.


'Live at Carnegie Hall' Captures Bill Withers at His Grittiest and Most Introspective

Bill Withers' Live at Carnegie Hall manages to feel both exceptionally funky and like a new level of grown-up pop music for its time.


Dual Identities and the Iranian Diaspora: Sepehr Debuts 'Shaytoon'

Electronic producer Sepehr discusses his debut album releasing Friday, sparing no detail on life in the Iranian diaspora, the experiences of being raised by ABBA-loving Persian rug traders, and the illegal music stores that still litter modern Iran.


From the Enterprise to the Discovery: The Decline and Fall of Utopian Technology and the Liberal Dream

The technology and liberalism of recent series such as Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the latest Doctor Who series have more in common with Harry Potter's childish wand-waving than Gene Roddenberry's original techno-utopian dream.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 2, The B-52's to Magazine

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part two with the Cure, Mission of Burma, the B-52's and more.


Emily Keener's "Boats" Examines Our Most Treasured Relationships (premiere)

Folk artist Emily Keener's "Boats" offers a warm look back on the road traveled so far—a heartening reflection for our troubled times.


Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.