Review Summary: Armed with an acoustic guitar, this is Tony Sly at his very best.
We surely lost one of the true greats a few months ago with the untimely death of musician Tony Sly. For those who don’t know, he was the force behind the punk turned pop punk band No Use For A Name. Throughout his career he had proven to be a dedicated and talented musician. His band released nearly ten full lengths (the last being in 2008) and he was actively doing acoustic shows with Joey Cape of Lagwagon. Before he passed, we were fortunate enough to get two acoustic solo albums from the punk pioneer. The first of the two, 12 Song Program
is the perfect example of his talent as a singer/songwriter.
It’s rather difficult to pinpoint a specific genre on Sly’s first acoustic album. Don’t go into it expecting just a bunch of acoustic pop punk songs because that presumption couldn’t be further from the truth. This was Sly’s chance to be creative outside of his band and he wasn’t afraid to toy with different sounds. ‘Amends’ has a definite country influence to it, but it’s very upbeat and features guest vocals from none other than Joey Cape. Both singers compliment each other very well, but they never sound better than when they are flawlessly harmonizing together. Sly’s vocals are also impressive on ’Keira’ and the guitar picking seems to be inspired by folk. Other songs such as the standout ‘Capo, 4th Fret’ lean towards more of a straight up acoustic rock sound and are highlighted by Sly’s beautiful singing. He certainly has a lower voice than most singers and it helps add to the emotion of the album. Rather than sounding high pitched or whiny, his voice fits every song rather nicely.
Accompanying Sly’s unique singing voice are honest and heartfelt lyrics that are likely to hit home with many people. In the more somber songs, he sings lines such as “The sound of ice in a bottomless glass tells me that all is fine” or “The sun is coming out, but only on one side of this one-sided town”. Those still curious of the mood of the album should look no further than the album cover of a man sitting alone at a bar. That’s not to say there aren’t some upbeat songs, but for the most part it is a gloomy record that captures the undeniable talent of the late Tony Sly.
For those who haven’t had a chance to hear No Use For A Name or Sly’s acoustic material, 12 Song Program
is a great place to start. It’s likely to please almost anyone with its influences of folk, country, and rock, but those who enjoy acoustic guitars are in for a real treat. The album is one of Tony Sly’s greatest accomplishments that will hopefully be remembered for years to come. RIP TONY.