On Hudson County, the new EP from Ferentz and the Felons, frontman Zak Ferentz slowly climbs out of the abyss. When it would be easier just to let himself keep falling, the Hudson County, New Jersey native, has managed to find the handholds and haul himself, slowly upwards, as he explains.
“Hudson County is about digging deep into the hurt and pain, going to war with it, and coming out on top. This record is real music for real people.”
However, the EP is as much about compromise as much as personal conflict. Throughout, Ferentz seems to be working towards the conclusion that there are fights that cannot be won. That, sometimes you need to draw swords and head into battle and sometimes you need to down arms and walk away before it takes too much from you.
“Centerville Blues” opens the album built on a ringing, arpeggiated riff, gliding slide guitar and Zac Ferentz characteristic driving, acoustic open chords – reminiscent of Everlast’s folk-rock work on Whitey Ford Sings the Blues. Lyrically, it is apparent from the outset, that Ferentz has had to fight more than most just to be standing today. (It’s hard facing the day / With so much pain”). Thematically, it considers the cycle of violence and substance abuse that seems to follow successive generations and the degenerative effect it has on the self and relationships with others.
Over a muted guitar line, “Note to Self” is a testament to resilience (“I’m not afraid of my shadow because it’s my shadow that follows me home”) and sees Ferentz straining every sinew heart-wrenchingto keep going. The mid-tempo, outlaw, folk-rock of “Keeping Company” sounds like a cross between the been-to-hell-and-back-and-just-about-lived-to-tell-the-tale work of Steve Earle and the driving, classic rock of Pearl Jam.
“Ash Moon” is a gently evolving love song that suggests Ferentz has found someone to see life through his eyes. Part love letter, part break up, album closer, “Hudson County” finds Ferentz sounding bereft as he resolves to break ties with the place he grew up. (“these streets has played me and left me abused”). It’s a heartwrenching conclusion to an EP from an artist who sounds like he is slowly piecing the jagged parts of himself back together.