Ann Beretta’s latest release, a live album, is a little over 40 minutes of pure fun and musical chemistry, but it comes at a hefty price.

Whenever I’m asked about what makes music interesting to me and what grabs my attention, my answer is always something along the lines of unexpected chord changes, playfully different rhythmic choices, or a singing style or vocal melodies that stand out, my tastes are never drawn to the extreme or to the avant-garde, merely towards things that defy the normal while brushing against it to retain familiarity and accessibility, fair shot, right? So, you have to trust me as I tell you that this album is lacking on those fronts, far richer on other fronts.

Ann Beretta is not a person, Ann Beretta is a 4-piece punk band, who are not offering any punk for us today. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, they have been in action since ’96. 26 years of action creates a bond that’s certainly greater than just the ’we make music together’ one. A bond that’s easy to spot in the immaculate chemistry the band displays on stage. The musicality those 4 have is immense and crafty, showing up the tightness of the drumming along with the bass, sticking to the kick with precision. The guitars are expertly mixed in and just as expertly played. The fiddle is a solid addition, also well-played, and never extravagant or demanding for attention. All is well, it seems. The big Achilles heel however is in how musically conventional all the songs are, with little to show off in terms of musical wits or compositional nuance.

Like A Riot is, as stated, a live album. The band had to take a more precautious route while recording these songs on stage, as they sound mellower, more bluesy and restrained than their studio-recorded counterparts. The bombast and explosive punk elements are forfeited in favor of more controllable, achievable, and performable versions, which end up sounding more Country than their hard-rocking originals. The band expertly plays the audience too, meticulously stitching songs end-to-end to maintain attention, communicating via their frontman every couple of songs to get the crowd going again. What these songs lack in compositional nuance is more than made up for by their musical expertise, professionalism, and just pure musicianship.

Ann Beretta is a solid group of friends, and stand-out guys who are absolutely having a blast playing their music, and being good at it. They are a forever family as frontman Rob Huddleston sings over the closing track. Perhaps their Punk will sway me over. But for now, I’m waiting for a different sound that’ll be easier for me to resonate with.

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