November 1, 2022

Ladies and Gentlemen! – if you like your Southern Rock served up Black Crowes-style, with rowdy riffs and a soulful swagger, you’re gonna love The Commoners! Offering their own blend of rock and roll, southern blues, and roots music, the Toronto-based four-piece band are known for their high-energy riffs, soulful vocals, and rich harmonies. The result is an authentic but contemporary Southern-style rock experience.

The Commoners are a four-piece Roots/Rock outfit from Toronto, Canada. The group evolved over the course of a decade, restructuring and adapting through numerous obstacles to form the unit as it exists today: Chris Medhurst (vocals/guitar), Ben Spiller (bass), Ross Hayes Citrullo (lead guitar), and Adam Cannon (drums). Often joined by their friend, organist Miles Evans-Branagh, The Commoners unite under a shared dream: to write, perform, and share music that is an authentic nod to the greats who paved the way before them.

The boys

“The Black Crowes are a big influence for us. Derek Trucks, Marcus King, and the Allman Brothers, of course. These are the bands that we wear on our sleeves as we aspire to create our own music.”

Channelling their deep respect and admiration for Roots/Rock trailblazers, The Commoners also incorporate classic rhythmic stylings inspired by Motown’s groove masters, and emotive vocals akin to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, to capture a sound that is very much of the here and now. Their new release Find A Better Way is an album that demands attention from the first note – the opening lines “If I scream at the top of my lungs, and stamp my feet, ’til the floor comes undone,” immediately let you know you’re in for some fun! Recorded in Toronto at RHC Music and produced by guitarist/producer Ross Hayes Citrullo alongside executive producer Renan Yildizdogan, The Commoners have crafted a record which strikes the perfect balance between new and old, fresh, yet familiar.

The album’s lyrical themes drill into the essence of humanity: love, regret, ambition, and fear, with nine tracks that act as a comfort and companion through all of life’s trials and tribulations, with melodic solos, soaring organ, and a punchy rhythm section to drive the messages home. It all starts with a banger of a southern rock anthem and new single, Find A Better Way is built around a simply stonking riff that introduces Chris Medhurst’s full-on vocals and some big bluesy choral responses. This is classic, timeless, quality southern boogie that should immediately hook all of you! A rich, fat sound bounces along, organ swirling away, a rivet-tight rhythm section with punchy percussion, bubbling bass, lots of sustain on guitar, tasty lead breaks, it’s quite simply all there!

Fill My Cup is next, straight out of the Black Crowes “gospel-southern” rock pantheon. It was the first single off the album, a roots rock classic with high-energy riffs, impassioned vocals and a whopping chorus that features the talented Chantal Williams on backup vocals. It’s just a timeless classic! A hard act to follow, but More Than Mistakes does its best, another swaying rock-train of a track. There’s more than a hint of timeless Motown rhythms here, an earworm that effortlessly gets inside your head! A great guitar break and lead-line perfectly balances the organ and chorus lines. This is a BIG track, the very definition of Southern Soul!

Too Much erupts with another whopping, rowdy, riff that surges through the speakers with joyful abandon. More lively organ bubbling away, and this might just be Chris Medhurst’s most impassioned set of vocals on the album. Married to more gospel choir in the chorus, it’s just timelessly wonderful!

Naturally brings the tone down a notch, a classic slow, bluesy, southern ballad that opens in a measured, time-honoured fashion, a simply whopping snare drum setting the vibe for a huge, emotive vocal performance from Mr Medhurst. There’s an organ arrangement that stirs and sighs, lots of slide and sustain on guitar, a symphonic choral accompaniment that builds to a classic bluesy crescendo, and always that sparse but humungous, clean drum sound!

I Won’t is pure Country Rock, guitars twanging and sliding with the best! Toronto legend Michael Eckert contributes pedal steel on top of all this, lush harmonies married to a cool chorale line make this a country classic until a surprising bridge link injects a no-nonsense burst of pure rock, complete with short but searing solo. Chris Medhurst’s vocals towards the end are so strong! Demanding attention from the first note, the force of the next track Deadlines is undeniable. Straight out of Allman Brothers territory, this song is such a strong, totally together, band performance. Another surprising bridge section adds further gloss to an already powerful track before a simply searing guitar solo by Ben Healey winds the song up into the rock heavens.

Hangin’ On Again brings the vibe down again, a heavy, meaty seven minutes-plus of blues-rock anthem. It’s the classic tale of love found and lost, Chris’ vocals here are simply masterful in their ranging between sensitivity, loss and untamed passion, perfectly capturing the mood. Twin lead guitars continue the epic flow of this beastie as it builds, breathes, pauses and winds up to a classic crescendo. Heavenly stuff, an extended solo puts the icing on this particular classic blues-rock cake – come taste the goodies!
To bring this fine song-set to a perfect end, Alive is an initially slower country-led tale that fizzs with powerful emotion. Michael Eckert’s pedal steel again adds a mesmerising, timeless, regretful vibe, but it has to be said that Chris Medhurst’s vocals here are outstanding – a cross between Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson and The Answer’s Cormac Neeson. Perfectly powered passion in his voice, it is a slow blues masterclass in heartfelt singing. Each individual contribution from the band is so bang-on right, piano, pedal, bass, guitars and percussion blending sumptuously into a concluding track of the highest, timeless, mesmerising quality.

How to sum up? Described as “a classic rock and roll affair,” the nine songs take the listener on a sonic voyage through the lives of the band, from the dusty back roads of rural Ontario to the bright lights of the big city. On their new album, The Commoners remind us that music has a unique ability to heal, a medicine of extraordinary merit, and balm for the soul during dark times. The Black Crowes are clearly a major influence, along with The Allman Brothers, Led Zep, in much the same way that for me The Answer echo their heroes.

As Ross Hayes Citrullo says, “The vision from the beginning was to marry old and new southern rock together in a way that was unique to the band’s Canadian roots. By adding the soul and rock elements of the Black Crowes, and the southern blues rock undertones of the Allman Brothers to a production style akin to Blackberry Smoke and Rival Sons, I think we developed an authentic sound that compares sonically to some of our favourite records across all of those music genres.”

With strong echoes of previous heroes, The Commoners are taking their stand, here to lead and inspire us all – Find a Better Way is released on Friday 4th November, go get it!

The title song – says it all!