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The Badlees Biography

Last updated: 06/09/2012 12:00:00 PM

Bret Alexander: guitars, mandolin, banjo, lap steel, dulcimer, zither, vocals
Jeff Feltenberger: guitars, vocals
Pete Palladino: vocals, harmonica, accordion
Ron Simasek: drums, percussion, vibes
Paul Smith: basses, cello, vocals

That line - taken from the song "Running Up That Hill" by the badlees - says almost everything you need to know about the band that recorded it. The highly prolific Pennsylvania quintet are, first and foremost, songwriters and storytellers. And their songs, although sometimes internal, are often highly descriptive and narrative tales crafted through the scopes of both observation and imagination.

Now, with the release of their long-awaited, highly-anticipated up there down here LP, the Ark 21 recording artists are once again prepared to take their audience on a marvelous musical journey. And from the passionate plea of "Don't Let Me Hide" to the picturesque images of "Luther's Windows," it's clear from the get-go that this latest recording is the badlees at their very best.

Recorded at the renowned Bearsville Recording Studios in upstate New York and at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles, up there down here offers a rewarding musical experience because of both its cohesiveness and its diversity. Within its tracks, listeners may find themselves touched by the sentimentality of the beautiful "Thinking In Ways," moved by the simple innocence of the gorgeous "Running Up That Hill," or stirred by the swagger of the guitar-driven "Silly Little Man."

It's the profound type of work that inspired one nationally recognized writer to describe the group as "America's most important young songwriters." (Knight Ridder)

High praise? Perhaps. But the badlees - who name artists such as The Band, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan among their favorites - are masters of the lost art of third-person, narrative songwriting. And in a time when many artists are writing songs inspired by films, this group - particularly with up there down here - continues to write the type of songs that could inspire films. Trendy pop songs clearly are not the this band's style.

"What we set out to do was to make a career-defining record", says vocalist Pete Palladino. "We wanted to leave timeless music here and give something back to our art."

"We were really trying to push the envelope of what the band could do, not only sonically, but with the images in the songs, the arrangements and the whole pacing of the record," adds guitarist and songwriter Bret Alexander. "We were trying to totally take it to the next level."

Considering the group's past work, it was no easy task. Based out of Central Pennsylvania, the badlees' story dates back to 1990 when the group released their debut EP, "It Ain't For You." The band soon built a sizeable regional following by releasing a string of quality independent albums, including 1992's "Diamonds in the Coal" and 1993's "The Unfortunate Result of Spare Time." By 1994, the band - with a live show that matched the quality of its albums - was being hailed as "Pennsylvania's best and most entertaining band." And their music, stamped by soaring harmonies and crafty musicianship amid lyrics that offered both a sense of purpose and integrity, was beginning to gain national attention.

In 1995, the group released "River Songs," a brash and eclectic album that would help define their dynamic sound. Met by mass critical acclaim and fueled by the regional hits "Angeline is Coming Home" and "Fear of Falling," the album soon helped the group land a national recording contract with Polydor/A&M Records. Peppering their live shows with both good wit and conviction, the group burned through clubs across America and later shared the stage with acts such as Bob Seger, Robert Plant & Jimmy Page and The Allman Brothers.

Radio also embraced the band, with "Angeline is Coming Home" and "Fear of Falling" becoming national Top 10 singles. By 1997, "River Songs" - an album first released independently and recorded on a shoe-string budget in a small Pennsylvania studio - had sold nearly 200,000 units. In 1999, the group - finally freed from a lengthy impasse with Polygram (the parent company of Polydor/A&M), following the Seagram's/Universal merger - signed to Ark 21 Records. In the meantime, the band recorded the independently-released "Amazing Grace" which was made available locally and at their live shows.

up there down here is the band's national follow-up to "River Songs." "We set out to make a record that had a real sense of place to it," says Alexander. "We wanted it to have enough layers and enough levels of craft to it that you could keep coming back for years to come and still find something new."