AFTER AUGUST – First Sign of Trouble

AFTER AUGUST – First Sign of Trouble

(2024 Self-Release)

The CD Release Party for First Sign of Trouble takes place this Sunday, March 24th at the Harmony. It’s an early show beginning at 4pm


In case you were wondering, After August is nearly the same band that called itself the Getaway Drivers and who released the outstanding Bellatopia album in 2015 (read the review here). The group decided they wanted to move away from the Americana style of TGD and produce something more aggressive. Fans of TGD needn’t trouble themselves, however – the sound of After August doesn’t depart all that far though they do succeed in adding more edge to their songs. This is primarily accomplished by frontman and principal songwriter Bob Manor strapping on an electric guitar while bringing lead guitarist Greg Thornburg’s vibey licks forward in the mix. Thornburg moved to guitar from his role as drummer in TGD and Pete Schmeling now occupies the throne. Dan Kennedy took over bass duties from Ken Keeley. To make things even more complicated, Manor and Thornburg released Tempest in 2021 (read the review here) as a duo with a sound that approximates the new After August sound albeit with programmed drums.

In fact, the first two songs on First Sign of Trouble are re-recordings of tracks from Tempest.

The gentle piano and soft vocal delivery of “In Solitude” is juxtaposed against the heavy guitar riffing. It’s a cool tune with a chorus that repeats “Dominus autem solitudinem” which translates to “god of the desert.” The lyrics could be taken two ways: “You were gone without a trace / As the sun was sinking low / The last look on your face / Told me all I’d ever known.” On “How Much Rain” Thornburg’s slick riffing again comes to the fore. Lyrically, it’s heartbreaking: “How much rain can one storm make?… / If I could give you a beautiful world / I would / My girl.” Manor could be talking about a female companion but perhaps even about his daughters. Taken in this context it’s quite impactful, as any parent would attest given the events of the last several years and especially the pandemic.

The recording quality on both is much improved with a fuller bottom end and a major improvement with the addition of live drums. Sheila Shigley’s backing vocals add further dimension.

Shigley takes lead vocals on her own composition, “Red Sky,” a gorgeous mid-tempo ballad with a searing solo from Thornburg. The lyrics are deceptively honeyed and the album’s title is drawn from this track. Just as the Tempest album had forebodings being created during the pandemic, First Sign of Trouble has its own poetic way of sounding the alarms. “Turn, turn, we never learn/The sins just keep getting older/So let it burn, it’s their concern/And Johnny won’t go for a soldier… It’s a red sky, first sign of trouble / They’re coming for the others but I’ll be alright / Pretty red sky, devil’s on the double / Who’s that knocking on my back door?”  Shigley also composed “River of Pines” and here it’s nice to hear her stretch her voice particularly in the middle section.

With the addition of Dan Kennedy comes another songwriter and vocalist. Kennedy contributes two songs, “Better Not to Know” and “Trouble Falls” on which he takes the lead vocals. The former features Thornburg’s angular guitar riffing and an impressive keyboard solo from Manor. The latter has a bit of a Police-like vibe and some nice changeups in meter during the middle section.

Manor’s songs are particularly menacing. “It’s coming around / Soon enough you’re gonna know / They’re comin’ for you now / They say you owe what you owe” he sings on “What You Owe” which has an excellent departure in the bridge. “One of the Things” is positively creepy, building up to a powerful slide guitar solo from Thornburg. “In Full View” is constructed from a piano figure in ghostlike fashion with multiple vocals building up throughout. It closes the album with dramatic flair and is one of Manor’s best songs.

First Sign of Trouble should be played loud which tends to bring the vocals out a bit more and intensifies the heaviness of tracks like “In Solitude.” Like the previous outings, vocals are a strong suit here and the trio of lead singers tend to make for three somewhat different palettes in terms of feel with Thornburg’s guitar work cementing the whole thing together. The direction the band is heading seems to suit not only them, but the intensity of the times in which we find ourselves.

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About the author

Rick Tvedt

Rick is publisher of Local Sounds Magazine, formerly Rick's Cafe, Wisconsin's Regional Music Newspaper. He is also the Executive Director for MAMA, Inc., a non-profit organization that produces the Madison Area Music Awards and raises funds to promote youth music programs.

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