Over 30 years ago here in Texas, three brothers started a band that would make a sizable impact here in this state but was never able to make the leap to wider audiences despite record deals with TVT and Sony. Vallejo was the name of the band, and they fused alternative rock with Latin rhythms. I first heard the band just over 20 years ago when they were transitioning from Sony to their own record label when I saw them live in Austin. I was blown away by what I heard and immediately became a fan. The band continued to self-release albums every few years or so but have been seemingly put on long-term hiatus over the past few years with the band members remaining in music but doing different projects. A.J. Vallejo (vocals) put Brodie Lane together who released their debut full-length ‘Hot Dirt’ back in 2020, which partially connected with me. I felt like the band was trying to find their footing, and I have found live versions of those songs much more compelling. Following a few non-album singles, the band has just released their excellent and varied follow-up album ‘Pain is Gold.’ I have been playing this album consistently since it dropped, and my favorites from it keep changing with each listen. While it is not strictly a concept album, it is an album that follows a guy through some life and relationship trials and tribulations.

A brief spoken word intro leads into the title track that has a swirling guitar riff and a strong hook. Vallejo’s vocals (also guitar) are immediately recognizable with a song that I think most of us can relate to when we are hurting. I remember Henry Rollins once saying something to the effect of ‘when life gives you lemons, squeeze them and embrace the pain.’ That sentiment seems to be in alignment here where we are channeling into the pain and knowing that we have to experience it to be able to cherish life when the pain subsides. The driving rhythm pounds the message home. ‘My Heart’ should be a single with a midtempo beat matched with a catchy vocal hook and lyrics that spill from Vallejo’s heart.  Brodie Lane is completed with Ray Kainz (guitar), Alex Geismar (drums), and Joe Fladger (bass) who each bring their own special ingredients to the band with Kainz’ and Vallejo’s guitar work standing out in the second half of this song.

Next song ‘Lover’ has grown on me since my first listen where the band delivers a straightforward rock song with a catchy chorus that I can see being a singalong song at future shows. The band delivers some nice background vocals at the end of the song as well. One of my early favorites was ‘Hard Livin’ which reminds me a bit of Brother Cane. Geismar and Fladger provide a great rhythm template where the guitar notes have plenty of space to rise to the surface. The bluesy solo takes the song to another level, and the lyrics include a nice throwback to the title track with our main character on the album dealing with the loss of his mother. The band has released a video for ‘Yeah’ which rides a hard bluesy beat and some excellent slide guitar. It might not have been my choice for the first video from the album, but it is extremely catchy. Lyrically, this is another one where we are trying to move past the things that suck and find something better.

One of my current favorites, ‘Damn You’ finds the band settling into an awesome groove and showcasing Vallejo’s vocal skills. The clean production and mix serve the album very well and allows the music to have a rich mix of dynamics when the guitar solo hits, it jumps out of the mix perfectly.  The band brings the tempo down for the ballad ‘Til the Right One Comes Along’ where the band channel into a bit more of a Red Dirt sound and could find the band maximizing some crossover success. The acoustic guitar intro to ‘Amnesia’ leads into a southern bluesy rock song that hits all the right notes.

The band open ‘You Don’t Love Me Like That Anymore’ like it might be another ballad but turn it into a great rocker after the first verse. This would be another one that I think would make an excellent single and stand out on the radio. The guitar notes in the chorus work perfectly. If you are a fan of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers or Cody Canada’s work, this should definitely appeal to you. One of my other current favorites follows in ‘The Door.’ Some excellent keys start the song with the feel of a classic 70’s slow burning rock song. There is not a wasted moment over the song’s four minutes with every element in the band showcased from the rhythm work to the guitars (with former member Bruce Castleberry on this one) to the vocals. This is sublime from start to finish with the pace and urgency building to a fiery climax. ‘Let Me Go’ is another southern rocking anthem with a solid hook but perhaps currently suffers on the album in that it follows ‘The Door.’ I think this will be one of the slow burners for me that will eventually get a lot more plays.

If you are keeping track of the number of songs, you have likely figured out this is not a short album. At 15 songs, it runs the risk of musical overkill, especially these days when some people spend less time with albums and focus on specific songs. The band erase any worries with the musical variety and depth on the 15 songs offered here which leads us to another potential crossover song, ‘You’re Welcome.’ Lyrically, our main character ends a relationship with the message that one day she will thank him as she will find someone better. This should be played a lot on the radio here in Texas with a similar feel to Cross Canadian Ragweed or a touch of Blackberry Smoke. The band then channel the blues with ‘When I’m Gone’ which rises from the swamp into a hard rocker with more excellent slide guitar. This will hopefully be a live staple as the band tap into an amazing groove, and I can see this leading into an extended jam where the song goes from three and a half minutes to more than double its length.

The band stay with the blues for ‘The Bottle’ which also features Guy Forsyth. As opposed to the previous song, this stays acoustic and deliberate in its pace. The intensity builds as the story unfolds, but the tempo remains the same on this eight minute epic. Close your eyes and you can feel the magic as you sit out on the porch with the wind blowing and the storm clouds approaching at sunset. I will not reveal what happens in the story here, but the lyrical pay off is extremely well done. Final song ‘Love is On the Way’ opens with a spoken word like the opener did, giving way to an acoustic guitar. This would have been a nice closer to the movie ‘Almost Famous.’ I don’t think this one could have been placed anywhere else on the album as it leads to the perfect close on the album with Vallejo’s vocals showcasing range, heart, soul, and passion. The band slowly rise into the mix right near the end for the final send off of the album. We end with a message of hope through all the darkness.

 While this likely won’t appeal to all RPM readers, I know a lot of you like a wide variety of rock music so wanted to introduce you to Brodie Lane. I have revisited the debut a couple times since this one dropped, but it still doesn’t grab me as much. This album though takes us on a musical journey where we feel and experience the songs throughout the album. These guys have poured their souls into this album, and we are the lucky recipients.



Author: Gerald Stansbury