Michael Reilly was born in Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois, and raised in nearby Libertyville, where he continues to live. He started writing songs and playing the harmonica while in middle school, booking his first paying gig at age 13. Reilly learned to play guitar while working summer jobs at a cemetery, where he cut grass and dug graves. As he began playing in bands, Reilly dropped the M from his first name and became Ike Reilly. He started recording in 1998 and released his debut album in 2001. His seventh studio album and first album in five years, Born on Fire, was released on June 16, 2015. The Ike Reilly Assassination presently consists of Reilly on vocals and guitar, guitarist Phil Karnats, pianist Adam Krier, bassist Pete Cimbalo and drummer Dave Cottini.
Performing the first of two nights at the Mercury Lounge tonight, Reilly was a bedrock storyteller who used dynamic rock music as his vehicle much like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp and Elvis Costello. Reilly favored his new songs rather than attempt to cover the breadth of his work; of the 12 songs he played, seven were from Born on Fire. Nevertheless, the selections revealed much about the identity of this working class American troubadour with street-poet swagger, as he chronicled episodes of despair, rage, irony and humor in rock, punk, blues and rhythm & blues-rooted music. The opening song, "Two Weeks-a-Work, One Night-a-Love," demonstrated his affinity for late 1960s Chicago-styled electric blues, loaded with gritty grooves, soulful vocals and a honking harmonica. Other songs sounded like beer-chugging chants for the late-night closing of an Irish pub. Reilly ended the set with a pile-driving head-banger, "When Irish Eyes Are Burning." In the end, the Ike Reilly Assassination sounded like Libertyville might be a musical suburb of Asbury Park.
Visit Ike Reilly at www.ikereilly.net.