July 5, 2024

For those who haven’t heard, The Commoners are (now) a five-piece Roots/Rock outfit from Toronto, Canada, specialising in Southern Rock served up Black Crowes-style, with plenty of rowdy high-energy riffs, soulful vocals, and rich harmonies. 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), Adam Cannon (drums) and Miles Evans-Branagh (keys).

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, the result being an authentic but contemporary Southern-style rock experience. Their last album Find A Better Way from late 2022 hit all the right buttons for critics and fans alike and they’ve been building on that ever since with a stream of scorching singles and plenty of live dates around the UK – see our very own Velvet Thunder live review from November 2023 here: https://www.velvetthunder.co.uk/the-commoners-the-bourne-music-club-sittingbourne-1-november-2023/

Now, hot on the heels of five singles, all absolute scorchers, the Commoners release their third full-length studio album Restless on Gypsy Soul Records on Friday 5th July 2024. Having wrapped up a bustling 2023 filled with recording sessions and a UK tour alongside Grammy-nominated duo Samantha Fish and Jesse Dayton, The Commoners have solidified their position as a must-watch act – and they’re very active this summer – the release of Restless sees the quintet play numerous festivals in the UK and EU, including Made of Stone, Steelhouse, and Moulin Blues Festivals, together with a string of UK venues in July (see tour poster below).


As with our previous album, we wanted to marry old and new southern rock together in a way that was unique to the band’s Canadian roots,” says the Commoners guitarist and producer Ross Hayes Citrullo. “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.
” – and I can certainly vouch for that!

So, on with the Show. The album opens with Devil Teasin’ Me (see the second video below), some classic southern rock featuring a cracker of a riff, harmonies that the Black Crowes would be proud of and a nice fat juicy organ sound. It’s a bonafide banger of a track, Chris Medhurst really giving his larynx a feverishly full-on work-out and putting a marker down for any “Classic Rock Frontman” awards going. This opener really does set out their intentions, with anthemic group vocals, electric riffs and a rock solid rhythm section.

Next up is Shake You Off, it’s got pile-driver percussion, punchy bass, Medhurst crazily more raucous on vocals, touches of almost gospel chorus from them all, a short but searing solo in the middle section, it’s simply superbly timeless classic rock that grabs you from start to finish. This band mean business and I love it!

The Way I Am starts off at a slightly loser degree of pandemonium compared to “Shake”, although there’s a rowdy enough riff driving it along, not to mention some simple but whopping drumming that John Bonham would have been proud of – give a big hand to skinsman Adam Cannon here. Again proving the Commoners would give the Black Crowes a real, real run for their money, it’s a deceptively simple tune that builds with a huge chorus (and vocal support by Sandra Bouza), that would have any stadium rocking. Add to that some scintillating guitar licks from Ross Citrullo, and you’ve got a guaranteed, hugely radio-friendly hit. Great Stuff!

The title track Restless is a relatively delicate ballad, lovely slide guitar. The semi-acoustic nature of the guitar work gives a hint of a Celtic feel to the track which evolves into a nicely understated bluesy feel with piano and harmonic guitar accents. On this song the band share the reality of life on the road, folding the struggle and discomfort of pursuing a dream into a show-stopping number. Again some lovely harmonies and topped by some sweet lead guitar.

Gone Without Warning follows, it’s a good old-time foot-stomper with a no-nonsense riff underpinning all. It features a heavy hitting chorus with soulful backing vocals by Chantal Williams, and I have to say the combined vocal talents of bassist Ben Spiller and drummer Adam Cannon come to the fore here. Another very satisfying slab of soul-rock is served up in Who Are You (Ain’t Knocked Down), with a peppery guitar chordline driving it on, underpinned with quite simply but utterly effective percussion, resonant organ lines, tickled ivories and thumping bassline in this true party rock anthem.

Body And Soul by contrast is a slowly smoking, soulful, sultry affair, with a throbbing bassline and punchy drumming and a nicely spacey guitar line. Chris’ singing here is on another level of soulfulness, power, control – and solid emotion. The song gets stronger and stronger, the very definition of a rock power-ballad, lovely stuff, for me the best track on the album. Turns out it’s quite an old number, I’m going to “cheat” a little here and include a video of a youthful looking foursome belting this one out live five (yes, that’s right – November 2018!) years ago – a real treat, it’s simply wonderful!

See You Again is a true roots-rocker, classic Americana from a Canadian band! It’s an ode to love and loss, good times and memories made, reminding me hugely of the Jayhawks with those country-ish minor chords, wistful organ, aching lead vocals from the man and gorgeous harmonies on the chorus. And sigh….

Too Soon To Know You stays in that nostalgic vibe, singer Chris reminiscing about the archetypal bond broken by time, a trip down memory lane for us all….there’s a lively organ line and crisp percussion supporting the soaring vocals, some tasty piano work and a suitably meaty crescendo. Brilliant in its timeless arrangement and execution – timeless does indeed seem to be the one-word summary for these guys. The word again springs unbidden to my lips as the album’s closer swings in, an acoustic number reminiscent for me of the Byrds and Gram Parsons? (think ‘Wild Horses’). Singer Chris Medhurst delivers his lines with a resonance and poignancy that truly hits the spot. Such a simple arrangement, mostly just him and a sparse acoustic guitar. Dare I say, Less Is More…

This is a quality album’s worth of rootsy “Americana” without being mawkish – the very best sort of roots-rock, Restless touches on the highs and lows a rock band on the road and on the rise, introspective slower-tempo numbers vying with rip roaring anthems. I really like this band, and I love this new album, I’ll say it again – a top quality collection of simply timeless arrangements and performances. It’s a portrait of a hardworking group revitalizing the classic Southern Rock genre – and my word, don’t they just hit the button – Essential Listening!

HOT OFF THE PRESS!

The band tour the UK from July 19th – 28th with Special Guest Madison Galloway on shows asterisked *.

THE COMMONERS – JULY 2024 UK TOUR

July 19th – *The Grace, London

July 20th – Maid of Stone Festival

July 21st – *Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes

July 23rd – *KK’s Steel Mill, Wolverhampton

July 24th – *Arlington Arts Centre, Reading

July 25th – *Night & Day Cafe, Manchester

July 26th – *The Caves, Edinburgh

July 27th – *Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

July 28th – Steelhouse Festival