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American Songwriter

The only thing that seems southern about Anthony Neff is his accent. Born in West Virginia, calling from North Carolina, the guy talks knowledgeably about The Replacements, The Kinks and Neil Young. But if it wasn’t for that tender twang of his that bends certain vowels, he’d sound like just another American rock geek with awfully good taste. In truth, Neff is not just another anything. He’s a vibrantly-gifted songwriter, fluent in pop, folk rock and Americana. All of these genres and more are featured on his new album, Blood Beneath The Sun (Porch Glow Records), sporting his superb backup band, The Nearly Distants. It’s a keeper, wherever he’s from.

Due to his initial, arguably unfortunate geographical location, Neff got off to a strange start.

“Growing up where I did, you became a Johnny Cash and Hank Williams fan,” says the affable Neff. “Then I went to college and got all punk rock for a while. You know, lots of Sex Pistols and abrasive stuff like that. I played my guitar along to it. But eventually, that got a little old. It wasn’t really my wheelhouse. So I began to listen to more lyrical stuff. Townes Van Zandt, John Prine. That made me pay attention to lyrics. I eventually mixed that with pop like The Beatles and Squeeze.”

Put that all in a blender, and you have an idea of what Neff sounds like.

Sort of.

You have to hear the opener, “Scene of the Crime” to understand this guy. It features a hypnotic synth, a slamming groove, crunchy guitars and Neff’s ominous voice, which has traces of the creepy Transylvanian bite of Bryan Ferry. Still, it’s all Neff and irresistible. Follow that with the sick vaudeville sound of “Keep Movin’ On,” with its staccato keyboards, horns and snarling guitars, and you know this guy doesn’t sound like anybody but himself.

“That one was tricky,”Neff says. “I pretty much wrote it in my car, on the way to work; the parts and everything. Obviously, I had no instruments. I can’t believe I was able to remember it and get to a guitar before I lost it.”

One of the most enticing aspects of Neff’s songs (and there are many to choose from), is how he approaches a subject from a tangent. He’s never too literal. Even when talking about that familiar pop topic, love.

“When I wrote ‘Scene,’ it was a brokenhearted love song,” he says. “But I wanted it to be a little more poetic than the usual specimen. So I never really talk about that, specifically. I speak about ‘the boys in blue’ and people ‘dragging the lake.’ It gives you the feeling that a crime has been committed, but I leave room for interpretation. That way, more people can put themselves inside the song.”

When complimented on this approach, Neff, typically modest, says, “It’s something I learned from (Replacements frontman) Paul Westerberg. I love how he never spells stuff out in his songs. It makes them more interesting and gives them more muscle.”

Now that this awesome little album, beautifully produced by Jason Merritt, is out, Neff is hoping to get out there and “spread the word” about his wonderfully eclectic music. One wonders if he’ll ever make it back to West Virginia and if he does, how he will go over. He certainly doesn’t sound like Hank or Johnny. That much is certain, but the hometown folks are bound to like Blood Beneath The Sun, anyway. After all, West Virginians, Anthony Neff has been gone a long time. Cut the guy some slack.

babysue

This is one of those cool things out there that makes us really glad we're in the loop. Even though this is an excellent album full of intelligent songs, there's a good chance that Blood Beneath the Sun will pass beneath the radar. Why? Simply because (a) there's way too much music out there, (b) it isn't being released on an ultra-cool label (it's an independent release), and (c) there are no celebrity guest appearances. We hope this album receives the recognition it deserves, because Anthony Neff is one super talented and smart fellow. His voice is what impresses us most. This guy's vocals sound something like a cross between Donovan Leitch and Bryan Ferry. And, interestingly, the songs also have some similarities to these two artists. Recorded in Durham, North Carolina with The Nearly Distants providing backup, this album is immediately familiar and instantly gripping. On the first spin we really liked this. By the fourth or fifth spin, well...we found that ourselves totally in love. Killer tracks include "Scene of the Crime," "In The Night," "Hey Little Lion," and "Under A Tuscan Moon." Top pick.

5 Stars

Rootstime

Anthony Neff is a folk singer and songwriter from Raleigh in North Carolina with the new album "Blood Beneath The Sun" his fourth album release in the world. Despite the fact that his first steps in music already date back to 1999, its debut took place on plate place only in 2002 with the solo album "Generation X istential Blues" that three years later was followed by the album "Chase Your Burden" and by it released in 2013, "Between The Rungs."

Early in his career he often performed as a solo artist with an entirely acoustic set, but over the years he collected a permanent backing band around guitarist, keyboard player and CD producer Jason Merritt, guitarist Scott McCall, bassist Roger Gupton and drummer Morgan Davis. The collective of these four instrumentalists calls itself 'The Nearly distants' and was now for the first time named alongside Anthony Neff on this fourth album "Blood Beneath The Sun".

The voice of Anthony Neff calling us repeatedly memories of those of 'Roxy Music' frontman Bryan Ferry, mainly because of the timbre and very specific sob in the voice. On the new album he brings fifteen songs that all afklokken between three and four minutes, ideal to end up on the playlists of radio stations.

Both text and music of all the songs was written by Anthony Neff. As always we have also heard some songs here that capture our preference: opener "Scene Of The Crime", our absolute favorite song "I Think Of You" (see acoustic version on the video) in which Bryan Ferry-like voice the most strikes and the lovely tune "No Returns".

Furthermore, it is taking advantage of the country ballad "The Day The Heavens Smiled" and "Under A Tuscan Moon", in addition to the intimate transferred songs "Just The Same" and "Eyes So Blue". There are also a few more uptempo songs that are best in taste, like "Billy Jean Blues" with a piece of Michael Jackson's song at the end, "Searching For A Song", the catchy sing-along "Hey Little Lion" and "Roll On ".

"Blood Beneath The Sun" is a surprisingly beautiful new album from Anthony Neff + The Nearly Distants fifteen songs expressing his great qualities as a singer and as a songwriter have exhibited optimal. A few listenings of this album with some melodious earwigs will undoubtedly be able to convince to add this CD to your personal collection.

Blurt

The staff at Blurt magazine have featured Anthony Neff & The Nearly Distants release of Blood Beneath the Sun in it's "Fall Heroes" preview feature.

The Equal Ground

3.8 out of 5 stars

Hailing from West Virginia, Anthony Neff is a singer/songwriter who composes heartfelt songs that feel like they are a little slice of the states. On his latest album Between the Rungs, Neff writes rock songs with a country twang as well as aching acoustic ballads that blend in other genres such as blues and even a little smidge of punk. Neff's vocal style seems to vary from song to song. Take for instance the excellent opener "American Fire" where his voice is stoic, reeks with masculinity and melancholy as he sings just a couple notches above a whisper.

This style is a far cry from his singing on "Company Time" where his voice sounds exuberant, less intimate and generally a lighter tone. Don't take this the wrong way, as his adapting tone contributes to an album that is varied and full of rich instrumentation.

The second song "Killing Me Slow" is about the end of a relationship and is an electrifying rock song with distorted guitar and a catchy melody that will get stuck in your head. It is pretty straightforward and there are not too many surprises on this one but a good song all around. Neff knows how to rock but his vocals and style seem to fit best with the type of songs you might imagine when someone is down on their luck and wants nothing more than a pack of smokes and a bottle of whiskey. The country swagger of "Still So Gone," which is a song Johnny Cash might have appreciated, best exemplifies this.

One of the highlights for me was one of the sparse songs on the album entitled "Last Waltz." It revolves around an organ and Neff's voice, but that is really all you need. The song has a bit of haunting quality that is only solidified by some of his lyrics as Neff talks about ashes and bones. "Heart Turns Black" is an incredibly catchy loose number while "The Ladder" wasn't one of my favorites. The album closes with "Home," which is an acoustic song that showcases Neff's best qualities. The intimacy of the music and the solace in his voice combine to make a lasting effect.

Between the Rungs is a varied album but tends to lend itself towards darker themes. Luckily, Neff treated these themes with care so his delivery and execution are authentic as well as meaningful.

AllWhatsRock

His latest offering Between the rungs is a powerful album that gracefully moves up and down the emotional spectrum of modern alt-rock thick with satire and melodic landscaping. Opening with the brilliant “American Fire” lyrics go: “I was born in an American fire – Coca Cola, rock and chicken wire…and a Bible Belt to hold up my pants” – no that’s good songwriting folks! From the first few track to the gripping final piece “Home” this album really hits on all cylinders. :Between the Rungs” is an eclectic mixture of all the best modern Americana Folk, eccentric Singer-Songwriter has to offer – but beware there is a dark streak to Neff’s psyche. The music herein is perfect for jamming out to, or playing in the car for a long drive – but some pieces are a stark opposites. This displays a lot of depth in his overall writing style. More importantly Neff delivers amazing lyrics and everyday subject matter that will cause you to reflect on his messages about the human condition – which is far from a perfect condition. Neff reminds me of Mat Kearney, Amos Lee, Keith Urban, Edwin McCain and Tyler Hilton. While each track does have a unique feel and groove to it, every song on “Between the Rungs” delivers some playing that will cause your head to turn and lyrics that will cause your mind to bend. His voice is somewhat artistically beautiful while retaining a masculine fullness that compliments the skillful array of sounds that compliment the rest of the songs.

Some other tracks that stand out for me are: Killing Me Slow, Company Time, Long Way from Love, Home

To sum it up: I give “Between the Rungs” an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars and highly recommend this album to any fan who wants more than overly synthetic pop rock to fill their atmosphere. So grab yourself a copy of “Between the Rungs” via the link below and kick up your heels to some solid playing, some of the best songwriting I’ve heard this year all coupled with mind numbing movements. All in all one of the most therapeutic, interesting and captivating musical productions I’ve heard this year. It definitely sets the staple standard for the genre, and should be a big hit this Summer.

Skope

To begin with I really liked this line from his bio: Between the Rungs, much like its predecessors, is built upon a solid framework of warm tones, thought-provoking lyrics and lasting melodies. Touches of Americana, rock, folk and pop music are interspersed throughout Anthony’s songs – yet he manages to avoid easy categorization into any one of these labels. Let me begin by saying Neff is an astonishing Americana performer, delivers a stunning showcase of life experiences and a truly passionate musical approach to the human experience. Neff to me writes songs about the people, places and things, with a healthy combination of humor, skepticism, and honesty. I get the impression he doesn’t understand, questions what he already knows, and asks his listeners to join him in viewing life from a different angle. Melding a unique yet accessible blend of guitars, straight forward beats and melodies, tasty guitar playing, groove-ridden bass lines and an infectious vocal front – Neff delivers. Indeed the Neff sound is a testament to how he insists on shifting the face of alt-pop rock. Enter the mind musing, comical trip of Between the Rungs: the latest and greatest release from Neff – a life’s opus if you will skirting the lines of life from the causal observers point of view. It’s also a very human blend of Neff’s spin on life through his music and possesses a very accessible signature tone. Indeed intelligent lyrics and catchy melodies are the heart of the Neff’s formula. He also brings painfully simple thoughts and subject matter, heartfelt rhythms and melodies. Also present is an easy going element of the Midwestern wisdom via this very relaxing 10 track line-up that’s sure to provoke a positive reaction from every listener that gives him just a minute of their time. Between the Rungs is an exciting CD full of music that can be listened to virtually in any situation. The songs on the album are a mixture of songs that encourage you to tap your foot, but also offer a mixture of sounds and musical landscape that will keep you guessing or wondering what’s around the next corner. From jumpy “Long Way to Love” to more melencholly American Fire” and Devils Car” to the more mellower and relaxing “Heart Turns Back” virtually any music fan can find something they would enjoy in this mixture of songs.

In the end Between the Rungs offers a unique opportunity to sit back and see where the musical journey takes you via interesting and entertaining sound that will remind you of Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, R.E.M. Gavin DeGrew and James Morrison. Anthony Neff is an artist worth checking out (live or studio setting) as his soulful sound and unique perspective on life can be appreciated by all fans of music – young and old.

Rating 4/5/5

Rock n Roll View

Most would agree most popular artists out there have something truly special to give to their fans. This goes above the typical attributes like raw talent, amazing songs, nice voice, or even a very marketable look, sound & image. There’s something truly infectious at the core of these artists that simply makes us feel good when we listen to them. Whatever “it” is – they all seem to have “it”. Today I listened to the latest CD from North Carolina based Anthony Neff who just released his latest CD entitled: “Between the Rungs” in 2013. Venturing to the internet and his website I get the impression this is one artist that is extremely determined, dedicated and passionate about the songwriting craft. From start to finish this CD delivers the goods and is a very entertaining musical experience all around. It has a very polarizing Pop-Rock quality to it, and even dabbles in what I can Americana-Folk-Blues–Rock. It also reminds me of Jon McLaughlin, Justin Nozuka, Paulo Nutini and Matt Wertz. Any fans of any of these musical styles or bands will enjoy this latest release from Neff. It’s clearly marketed for those who like a solitary male vocal front. I get the impression Neff is letting it all hang out via this intriguing 10 track line up. In other words he hits the mark remarkably well by just by being who he is musically. Favorite tracks include (Devils Car) (Last Waltz) and (American Fire). The songwriting is impressive and digs a bit deeper than the next independent artist. Within each one of these pieces Neff bares his soul and delivers what I would call pure musical mojo. It offers much in the way of passion and compelling-thought provoking lyrical content. The playing from Neff are spot on and just makes the whole experience more enjoyable. He has solid instincts behind the microphone. The overall vibe of the production is very mysterious and honest with pockets of raw truth shining through.

I see Neff as a real diamond in the rough, with an amazing amount of potential. As time goes by we will no doubt hear more from him. He is a multi million dollar record contract waiting to happen. I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear him on Prime Time Radio someday or even in a featured in a major film or TV Series. In close most famous artists out there have “it” I’m not so sure what it is but Anthony Neff has whatever “it” may be.

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Indie Arts Alliance

Anthony Neff is a guitarist/songwriter fromNorth Carolina.North Carolinais a colorful, sunny place and it has its fair share of hot and rainy days as well. Having said that this might just be the perfect locale to explore the unpredictable realm of musical expression. Between the Rungs, much like its predecessors, is built upon a solid framework of warm tones, thought-provoking lyrics and lasting melodies. Touches ofAmericana, rock, folk and pop music are interspersed throughout Anthony’s songs – yet he manages to avoid easy categorization into any one of these labels. This latest CD from Neff delivers all of the above and will reveal all the a-typical conventions of today’s Americana-folk music that so many adore. This creates a solid sonic space for the listener to bask in. The first track “American Fire” boldly goes against the grain and lifts off the ground smoothly and is in itself an impressive kickoff statement to say the least. It’s vintage Neff and gravitated me you right away like a magnet. All songs present a stunning collection of music that slowly runs the gamut and has much to offer insofar as impressive music and captivating vocals not from Neff. This make the listener feel right at home laying on the sun without a care in the world. Musical comparables for me include Gavin DeGraw, Daniel Merriweather, Daniel Powter, James Blunt, Divine Fits, The New Pornographers. One cannot help but admire artists with strong songwriting skills and truthful conviction all the while demonstrating a strong a level of creativity. One senses a growing ambition as this CD advances. Neff’s appealing guitar and vocals hit the mark and with intellectually stimulating lyrics providing a very real and powerful source of inspiration. The musicianship is rock steady and the overall production value tows the line. All in all a great set of songs. Speaking of which notable standouts for me include: American Fire, The Ladder, Heart Turns Black and Long way from Love.

If you want a pleasant mellow pop rocking staple with a cutting edge there’s something on this record for you. Obviously manyAmericanafans will fall head over heals with Neff. This is one artist that’s set up rather well for mainstream success this year. Some of this plays into strong marketability potential world wide. Some pieces present more modern sounding overtones but despite all this the flavor possess traditional Singer/Songwriter, Blues-Rock n’ Roll textures with some Americana Pop thrown in. This is really what makes Neff so enticing to me personally. Anthony Neff possesses an impressive look and sound. “Between the Rungs” grants you rare access to peer into the soul of a an artist not so tormented but rather easy going and positive – from a North Carolina perspective shall we say.

Final Rating: 9/10

Indie Music Digest

10 out of 10 stars (CD of the Year Nominee)

Sounds Like: Spoon, Richard Buckner, Chris Isaacs, Pink Floyd

 

 

The CD gently takes flight with “Americana Fire” a melancholy acoustic intro piece that serves up solitary vocal delivery from Neff that is passionate, up front and very personal. Track 2 “Killing Me Slow” keeps things moving with methodical intro, rocked out guitar against Neff’s striking baritone and thought provoking lyrical content. Track 3 “Still So Gone” shifts gears a bit with it’s bluesy guitar riffs, impressive feel that flows and ebbs it’s way through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Mark Kozelek Richard Buckner, Spoon, Chris Isaacs, Pink Floyd and even The National. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life's observations. Overall the catalogue is extremely melancholy showcasing vintage sadcore but brilliant nonetheless. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice brief splashes of Piano, Hammond Organ, orchestral strings, impressive guitar licks and solos, all built upon an impressive rhythm section. The guitar playing abilities from Neff are impressive nonetheless. Timing is spot on within each piece. I might add Neff displays an impressive baritone, impressive vibrato and strong emotional timber. His vocal timer reminds me of a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Chris Isaacs. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Neff is also a very capable songwriter. From striking “Devils Car” to hypnotic The Ladder” to methodical “Last Waltz” to rocking “Company Time” and Long Way from Love” to smooth moving “Heat Turns Back“ this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Home” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.

 

It’s hard to find any noticeable weaknesses with this CD so I give up!

 

Neff will work best on days you want a delicate, thought provoking and intellectual singer/songwriter sound to fill your atmosphere. "Between the Rungs” is a brilliant, striking and compelling musical production. Its strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness of Neff. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Neff is there is no attempt to hide how he feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Neff is one of those artists. Be advised you may not want to listen to this CD on the day you get fired, but if you like melancholy music that provides a very real assessment of the human condition then you should jump into the CD head first. The real selling point for any song is the (singer to listener) emotional connection. Here experienced artists will execute and make this every time. It cannot be faked and has to be totally genuine. At the end of the day people don't buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions. In this aspect Neff is brilliant!

 

News & Observer

Raleigh Songwriter's new CD was years in the making

by Colin Campbell

— Singer-songwriter Anthony Neff’s first CD in years came out this month – four years after he entered a recording studio to start the process.

His CD release concert Sunday comes just in time to share the new tunes at one of his favorite venues, Sadlack’s Heroes. The Hillsborough Street institution is likely closing later this year to make way for a new hotel.

“I just love playing at Sadlack’s,” he said. “Pretty much this is the last year, so I take advantage of playing there whenever I can.”

Neff is returning to the Raleigh music scene after a long break with the release of the album “Between the Rungs.” The time off slowed the recording process, and Neff admits the final product is “pretty dark.”

“There’s a lot of songs about ended relationships,” he said. “The happiest song is called ‘Long Way from Love,’ and it’s a song about divorce.”

Neff also tackles war on the album with a song about a soldier’s sacrifice in the Iraq War. The song makes the case that our country needs “to make sure we as a society don’t send them out to do things and make a sacrifice without thinking through it,” Neff said.

“Between the Rungs” came together with help from Kenny Roby, a fellow Raleigh musician who’s been getting lots of buzz these days. The new album has already made it to the top 100 rock releases on Rockadia, a British online music magazine.

Neff says he follows the songwriting approach of his inspiration, the late Townes Van Zandt, who said his songs were “out there in the sky and you just pick them.”

“I start playing guitar, and a melody and a line just hits me,” Neff explained. “I don’t know what it’s going to be about.”

A native of West Virginia, Neff has been performing since 1999 and already has two albums to his name. His music aims to defy categorization, mixing influences from Americana, rock, folk and pop.

With Sunday’s release of “Between the Rungs,” Neff plans to play more frequently at local venues and perhaps take a short tour. But with the music industry’s digital age, he’s also focused on promoting the record online.

“My biggest thing will just be trying to get the album and the songs heard,” he said.

Smother.net

If you’ve been paying any sort of attention, you’ll remember our previous discussion of Mr. Neff via his “Generational X-istential Blues” album just a short couple of years ago. I know I remember Anthony Neff’s sincere voice and knack for marrying the sounds of country, Americana, and folk for his own unique tone that he sets with gusto. This album is even better than the last, picking up from everything he did right there, and peppering it with a new fondness that will have the young and old alike yearning for more. Producer Rob Farris’s wanton use of ½” tape makes this album even more memorable with its rustic, folk appeal that gives it hometown quality with big-budget sound. This is one singer/songwriter that everyone should be following like some fanatical rabid fan.

The Independent Weekly

You could call Anthony Neff's Generation X-istential Blues a turf-friendly release: It's neither earth-shattering nor ground-breaking. I hope that doesn't sound overly flippant because the album is also friendly to the ears, a solid collection of songs, nine originals and one cover, that once upon a time it would have been described as folk rock. In the end, it is what it is (and here I move from possible flippancy to attempted omniscience): an album created by a guy who decides to make a record for the same simple reason that he plays out a couple times a month--namely, it's something that he really likes to do. I'm thinking that when the day-job whistle blows, Neff heads toward a guitar instead of the television or the golf course.Neff typically plays solo at area clubs and coffeehouses, so it's a minor revelation to hear his songs presented in full-band arrangements, the fleshing out done with the help of some familiar names in the Triangle roots-rock community. Co-producers Kenny Roby and Rob Farris contribute guitar and keyboards, respectively, as well as backing vocals. Also on hand are two of Roby's former 6 String Drag mates, drummer Ray Duffey and ace guitarman Scott Miller, while Roger Gupton and Jeff Hart do a split shift on bass. There are modest touches throughout that both reflect the album's modest ambitions and give it some nice texture, be it the horns on the jumpy "Don't Wanna Cry No More" or Kurt Fortmeyer's harmonica on an album-closing version of Townes Van Zandt's "Buckskin Stallion Blues." "Fake Love" starts out sounding a little like Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" in slow motion, and you half-expect it to launch into that song's big chorus--not that there'd be anything wrong with that--but it stays grounded by the weight of the two heavy hearts within. The best cut is the title track, which, half Band and half Little Feat, kicks off the album in rousing fashion and chronicles the eternal struggle of coins vs. conscience and silver vs. soul. But you just know that Anthony Neff isn't in it for the money. He's in it for the tunes.

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