Red Collar is a rock powerhouse caught somewehre between the arena, the pub and the revolution. Welcome Home captures that fiery middle ground and is quite a feat for a band with such a wide-open stage show.
When you talk about this Durham outfit, you're going to talk about Springsteen a lot, but also the self-sufficient punk ethos behind Joe Strummer's inimitable working-class road epic, Streetcore. That same Heartland-flavored love of high speeds and open windows is right there in Red Collar's "Choices," when gravel-and-brimstone-voiced Jason Kutchma sings, "She got the keys/ the very first time/she called him up/'you wanna go for a ride?/This is freedom.'" In a lot of ways, this worship of hand-me-down hatchbacks and newly minted licenses is the flip side of Springsteen's "Used Cars."
Welcome Home opens with bold anti-authoritarianism. "Stand up boy/stand up tall/shoulders straight against the wall" hollers against big stabs of overdriven rock guitar. And the remarkable closing anthem, "Welcome Home," swings like some massive drinking ballad. Upbeat tracks like "American Me," "Dodge K" and "Fade into the Night" maintain Red Collar's legendary live energy.
This is driving but expansive music; it possesses the kind of immediacy that can take a hopeless square like me — a responsible father of two with a mortgage and all — and awaken some of that naïve, long-gone accelerator worship. Because there's something about Welcome Home that demands that I push the gas pedal down a little farther than I should and revel as my efficient little Toyota sedan charges through the gears in a gleeful, mad rush to some great American climax.