Deer Tick

Deer Tick – Negativity [album review]

by Woody on September 25, 2013


I’ve crossed paths with John McCauley a few times during our many visits to SXSW. This particular time, it was hot as balls and McCauley had lined up his usual dogged lineup with multiple shows for Deer Tick, Middle Brother and wherever else he could sit in. On stage he was electric with what-seemed-like ready made one-liners and an ability to get the crowd whipped into a frenzy with his music. But when I saw him, he was on a staircase away from the crowds – head in hands having a smoke. I went up and did the standard, “really enjoy your work. Maybe come in for a HearYa session,” intro. He was nothing but polite but it looked like he was running on fumes with no end in sight.

I didn’t give it much thought then, as that is a common feeling during SXSW but as interviews and press started building during the release of Negativity, you heard of bigger things weighing down John’s psyche – his broken engagement, his Dad’s tax fraud case, etc. Whether or not John was just exhausted or having a moment of introspection; I’ll never know but that moment stuck in mind as I started listening to Negativity.

After the raucous Divine Providence, which I really enjoyed, McCauley said Negativity would be more serious and dark. Was Divine Providence and his side project, Diamond Rugs, just an escape from McCauley’s problems by singing about getting smashed, call girls and morning hardons? And now with Negativity, McCauley seems to be addressing these issues and/or has addressed him with brilliant results.

Like most Deer Tick albums, there are a whole host of influences throughout. As always, there is a huge twang influence, including a wonderful duet with his current girlfriend, Vanessa Carlton. The tune is In Our Time and it is a classic hardscrabble country tune. Opener, The Rock starts off as some sort of dirge about his broken heart before the rest of the band tears it up with the perfect amount of horns introduced ala Diamond Rugs. Guitarist, Ian O’Neill gets another crack at lead vocals with the fantastic track, The Dreams’s In The Ditch, a take of woe about the music industry.

After a few more listens of Negativity, another moment with Deer Tick stuck in mind. It was a few months ago at a show at Chicago’s City Winery. Deer Tick’s drummer, Dennis Ryan, was tending to a family emergency so the band played a quasi-acoustic set. I went with a few friends and to a man, we all commented that he seemed much more at peace with himself. For John’s sake and for fans of Deer Tick and his other amazing projects, let’s hope so.

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa

Deer Tick is here.


Diamond Rugs – S/T Debut [Album Review]

by Woody on April 24, 2012

Poor Mrs. McCauley. Raising John must have been some chore. Based on his musical career, I doubt he sat still for more than 10 minutes. Any time, he has more than a month to recuperate from Deer Tick albums and touring, he opts to gather friends, create a new band and crank out a new album. First Middle Brother and now Diamond Rugs.

Diamond Rugs is a collaboration between John McCauley (Deer Tick), Robbie Crowell (Deer Tick), Ian Saint Pé (The Black Lips), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Hardy Morris (Dead Confederate) and Bryan Dufresne (Six Finger Satellite).

McCauley continues his adulation of all things Replacements with gems such as “Gimme A Beer” (incluing a nice shoutout to Geto Boys and fans of Office Space), “Call Girl Blues” and “Hungover and Horny” (this was Jefe’s theme song for SXSW). And while the album and its songs won’t elicit high praise from the high-brow press, sometimes its good to let primal instincts take over and drink beer out of a can with a pizza sauce stain on my shirt. Diamond Rugs’ songs are rough around the edges, but they certainly fill a need in my book.

I’ve never been a Black Lips fan but Saint Pé delivers a couple of great tunes in the opener “Hightail” and later on “Blue Mountains.” Both are rollicking with a dirty guitar lick and Saint Pé delivers the vocals with the devil-may-care attitude that he exhibits during his live sets.

But the best tune on the album belongs to Morris. Coming off a rather lackluster second album by Dead Confederate and surrounded by such big personalities such as Saint Pé and McCauley, I wouldn’t have guessed that he’d be the standout. On Country Mile, placed in the middle of the album, Hardy packs a heavy wallop. It fires up all fuzzy, dense and brooding like some of Dead Confederate’s best stuff. Morris sings as if he can barely give a shit but then it shifts into a bouncy alt-country number; and then back again.

“It’s about a friend of mine who has been bound to a wheelchair his whole life” said Morris, “but is an extraordinary dude and has definitely ‘stood up’ to more than most people. It’s supposed to sound both painful and pretty.”

This is bro-rock. Music for slapping high-fives and generally acting like a jackass. I can get completely lost in the beauty of densely complex bands like Other Lives. In fact, I love that stuff. But there are times when my musical intellect needs to be abandoned. And that’s when bands like Diamond Rugs are needed.


Rock n’ Roll meets Jack Ass on Deer Tick’s video for “Main Street.” One fart and the band would have gone up in smoke.

Woody recently caught them in Chicago and had this to say:

This video is almost as crazy as their live show. The Chicago show saw beers and cocktails flying, a possible McCauley dong-sighting (we were standing in back but someone said he was playing his guitar with his dong), guys on other guys shoulders, a faux makeout session between McCauley and Ian O’Neill and an encore that had more people on stage than the end of The Last Waltz. They also found time to mix in covers from John Prine, Nirvana, The Mats and a rocking cover of “Leroy Brown.” It was either one of the more surreal shows I have seen or I am getting old.

Buy Deer Tick’s latest, Divine Providence, today on Amazon for $3.99.


Deer Tick – Divine Providence [Album Review]

by Woody on October 27, 2011

I was talking about Deer Tick to some guys that had never heard of them before. My description was one of an old time rock and roll band who are about drinking canned beer, smoking reds and wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In any Deer Tick album, you’re going to have a few moments that are filled with no-holds barred raucous behavior, a few moments that are truly sentimental and some in between.

Deer Tick’s fourth album, Divine Providence, starts off on the raucous side and has much more of that hard party vibe than their previous (and much darker album), The Black Dirt Sessions. Two of the first three songs could blend seamlessly into The Replacements Let It Be or Pleased To Meet Me without missing a beat. Opener, “The Bump,” proudly boasts “We’re full grown men, but we act like kids.” As a 41 y/o dad of three, I can relate. My wife has said the same to me on more than a couple of occasions. “Let’s All Go To The Bar” is almost juvenile in its approach, but will no doubt prove to be a concert favorite. I know for sure that I will be singing right along with them, canned beer in hand over head.

But while these songs are great fun and the comments between songs like “you fuckin’ douchebag,” “let’s go get drunk,” and various belches are slightly entertaining,  an album that contained nothing else would grow very tired. And it’s the ability to shift gears into a more serious side that makes Deer Tick so compelling. “Main Street” and “Chevy Express” give McCauley the freedom to bear his soul.

And lest we fall into believing that Deer Tick is John McCauley and nothing else. Drummer Dennis Ryan takes the mic for the very deep “Clownin’ Around” and guitarist Ian O’Neil handles “Now It’s Your Turn” and the rocking “Walkin Out The Door.” And while it is a little jarring to not hear McCauley’s grizzled vocals at first, “Clownin’ Around” and “Walkin Out The Door” have become two of my favorites.

As a longtime fan of the aforementioned Replacements, Divine Providence has really struck a nerve with me and I can’t seem to get it out of the player. Where it stands in Deer Tick’s catalog is going to be up for discussion. But I will say this is their best effort in capturing their live performance. For a taste of how they made it, see below. Parts 1 and 2 can be found here.

They’ll be in Chicago on 11/14 at Reggie’s. I plan on being there and HearYa has a couple of free tix to hand out. Email us at to enter.

Deer Tick “Main Street” by Partisan Records

Deer Tick – Main Street (performed on David Letterman)


Middle Brother, the Deer Tick + Delta Spirit + Dawes collaboration, is all about Me, Me, Me

February 4, 2011

Middle Brother is an indie-rock supergroup of sorts. It’s the combined effort of Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes, John McCauley of Deer Tick and Matthew Vasquez of Delta Spirit. Today, they released their first single “Me, Me, Me” and the full album will be delivered on March 1. I’m very eager to hear this. There’s no […]

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Deer Tick and Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit at Webster Hall, NYC [Concert Review]

August 17, 2010

Its been almost three years since I first saw Deer Tick perform at a Brooklyn apartment. Since then, the band has become one of the most prolific outfits, releasing two albums, an EP, and touring consistently. On Friday night, John McCauley brought his latest lineup of the band to Webster Hall for the final date […]

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Deer Tick slowly burrows into my scalp and bleeds me dry on Black Dirt Sessions [Album Review]

July 1, 2010

Let’s be honest. HearYa has lost some mojo since that Jill Andrews live session. I found that someone close to me is very sick, then took a business trip to California, and then back to a shitstorm at the office and sleepless nights at home with a toddler and newborn. I’ve been in a vegetative […]

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Deer Tick releases first new track from new album [new mp3]

April 9, 2010

Deer Tick has put the finishing touches on their new album, The Black Dirt Sessions, and they’ve offered up a free mp3 called “20 Miles” for fans. I haven’t heard the new album, but it reportedly explores darker themes like death, mortality, and the existence of God. I had a short chat with John McCauley […]

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Deer Tick releases new track, Smith Hill [new mp3]

July 30, 2009

Damn. I’ve been fighting battles with hosting companies, blogging software, airports, airplanes and bi-coastal trips. It’s good to sit down with a drink and listen to some music again. “Smith Hill” is the second track offered up by Deer Tick and their recent release Born On Flag Day. Get in there while I track down […]

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Deep Dark Woods, Deer Tick, Billy Joel and Elton John: Three Concerts in Three Nights

July 20, 2009

I am too old for this shit. I’m writing this the morning after seeing my third show in three nights. First up was The Deep Dark Woods from Saskatoon at The Hideout. They drew a solid crowd for a Tuesday night and for a band that is just starting to buildup a fan base here […]

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