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The Mascot Theory / Press

“Finally, something that sounds like country that I can get into. Sounding closer to a mix between Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash than Keith Urban, The Mascot Theory’s latest album Hand Me Down Miracles is as good as any folk rock album from 1967. Hand Me Down Miracles starts out with a very catchy tune called ‘When I Drift Away.’ Bearing all of the hallmarks of folk, it sets the stage for the rest of the album. The song is what I would call folk-pop. The harmonies are superb, the mix of acoustic and electric guitars is reminiscent of early Elvis and Bill Hailey. If Taylor Swift could write like this, maybe I’d actually like her music. Monterey,' the fourth song on the album, is the high point. Musically, the songs slowly builds from just a solo guitar and vocal to a massive ensemble worthy of the greatest songwriters of the last one hundred years. ‘One Last Train’ has some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in a long time. Worthy of Paul Simon’s pen, the song is as lovely as ”

“With groups like Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers, and David Mayfield Parade setting the tone, the sub-genre of acoustic folk made its way to mainstream radio and captured an incredible and very loyal fan base. With the release of “My Eyes See,” the new single from their album Hand Me Down Miracles, Mascot Theory is set to be the next band in that category to make a major impact. They balance on an alternative folk influence and pull it together with a rootsy bluegrass blended Americana feel to give us something that fits alongside their counterparts, but also has enough freshness to it to give it a unique spin and create their own sound as well.”

“Kjelland is a consummate storyteller with poetic notions. He has a way with melody, words and phrasing and the album is chock full of these features. Kjelland is certainly reaching for a larger market with the Mascot Theory and the Nashville calling could end up being too strong to resist. Either way, Hand Me Down Miracles strengthens his credentials as a prolific, seasoned songwriter and should the album cross paths with the right people, who knows what could result. Like many local acts who don’t fit into just one clique, the Mascot Theory have had their share of issues getting traction in Madison despite effective promotion and consistent releases. Fifteen albums is far more than most artists conjure up in a lifetime so Kjelland and the Mascot Theory deserve more. Hand Me Down Miracles positions the Mascot Theory a few rungs higher on the ladder and could be the impetus that gets their ticket punched.”

“‘Hand Me Down Miracles’ from The Mascot Theory punches with the aggression of an angry street-brawler combined with the artistry and footwork of an expert fighter. There’s hard driving bass, rippling guitars, heavy-hitting drums, raunchy vocals and ‘tight as teeth’ harmonies. They also show no fear in exposing a softer side both musically and lyrically. You can easily call this ‘a complete album’. Without waxing too lyrical, the track listing is universally good, which makes picking favourites to review in only a few paragraphs both easy and hard. Easy – there’s not one single filler-track, hard – deciding which to leave out. From the fast paced ‘When I Drift Away’ offering a taste of what’s coming, through the drum barrage that drives ‘My Eyes See’ beneath the sharp fiddle breaks, to the organ embellished guitar drive of ‘Sun It Rises’ this music pulls you in.”

Tim Carroll - FolkWords.com

“There are songs of war times, songs of the apocalypse, songs of suicide, songs of a life wasted. It hits you once you’ve listened to the last track, “Meet-Your-Maker-Tavern” — man, that was a whole lot of story in a short amount of time. You’re stronger and wiser for having stayed for the entire tale. Lead vocalist Erik Kjelland wants to be a better man than he thinks he is. He’s trying to do something good or save somebody, maybe himself, with his lyrics and passionate voice. You’ll realize right away that there’s some strong musicianship on display here. Nick Fry holds everything, and everyone, together on the upright bass, Adam White provides some grit and anger with the electric guitar, and drummer Paul Metz delivers a special energy, attitude and fellowship familiar to fans of folk. There’s a brotherhood going on here with these guys. They each know their role and take full responsibility for making sure the tale gets told.”

“With an Americana acoustic folk-rock sound, The Mascot Theory is Madison’s answer to Ryan Adams and The Lumineers. Led by Erik Kjelland (former singer of rock outfit, Crimson Vim) and backed up by bassist Nick Fry, guitarist Adam White, and drummer Paul Metz, they released their first album, Under The Borrowed Moon, in 2012 and they’ve been touring regionally, since. We spoke with Erik about the band, the record, and their upcoming show on March 30th.”

“Musically, these songs are well written and well played with an enjoyable mix of instruments (of which I am especially partial to steel guitar and fiddle/violin). Lyrically, I’d like to know which of these songs are written in the first-person and which are from the outside looking in. I have found some of these melodies ringing through my head days after my last listen, most notably Part-Time Valentine (an instant favorite upon first listen), but also Time To Move On, Like Babel Coming Down, Up in Smoke Down In Flames and Everything Left To Lose. Face Down On The Floor is one of those tracks whose tempo, melody and heavy use of fiddle/violin moves me – another instant favorite. Then the album finishes great, with Meet-Your-Maker Tavern (another instant favorite upon first listen), which is one of those types of songs I havevfound myself playing and replaying consecutively. This CD has earned a place in the rotation with my Jayhawks, Avett Brothers and Neil Young favorites.”

Curt Williams

“‘Under The Borrowed Moon’ from The Mascot Theory offers a full-fat, high-energy dose of Americana-tinged, folk-country rock with lyrics shaped around rousing rhymes and tough themes. This is an album that will remain with you long after the last echoes fade away. From the guitar-jangling Homeric opener ‘Asphodel Meadows’ through the punch of ‘Up In Smoke Down In Flames’ with its acidic lyrics, to the equally biting observation of ‘Time To Move On’ there’s passion, depth, reflection and accusation working across a spread of influences – this is certain to make you sit up and listen. Highlights include the emotional questioning of ‘Part-Time Valentine’ as it builds across an intricate guitar and percussion duel; while sparring interplay between the musicians and continues through ‘Like Babel Coming Down’. There’s a step change with ‘Everything Left To Lose’ – more self-focused and introspective with its straight-to-the-point lyrics...”

“Parsing Under The Borrowed Moon by The Mascot Theory is a bit like deciding you want your eggs over easy after they've already been scrambled. Singer-songwriter Erik Kjelland and his Mascot bandmates start off with Greek mythology, end with a nod to traditional gospel, and just in case we're not paying attention, toss in a few subtle tributes to some of the giants of popular music. To point to the elephant in the room: Yes, Kjelland drew on personal losses as the inspiration for Moon, but the disc is anything but melancholy. “Everything Left to Lose” and “Meet Your Maker” are the linchpins for the emotional tone evoked by the album as a whole, but interestingly, they also are the two most literal efforts on the disc. The former is an anguished plea – too late – to a former bandmate who took his own life. The latter, a celebration of Kjelland's late grandmother, amply demonstrates that the songwriter comes by his mordant wit naturally: The pensive apple doesn't fall far...”

“In an age of cookie-cutter music it is refreshing when seasoned musicians survey well-rutted genres and deliver a fresh vision. Under The Borrowed Moon is a solid debut from The Mascot Theory, a new Midwestern-based band of veteran musicians who have been playing together for years under various incarnations. Led by a singer-songwriter of versatile skill, Erik Kjelland has come down from the mountain with a collection of songs whose subjects traverse the very regions of the heart, that wide swath of human endeavor that all but guarantees the results will prove profound. With a solid band that includes acoustic guitar, harmonica, upright bass, banjo, mandolin, and fiddle, Under The Borrowed Moon is a cornucopia of standout songs: Above its punchy guitar licks in “Asphodel Meadows” Kjelland deftly rails against the fates while reaching for a belief he can trust, if not prove, “Grabbed by the current, swept away... an endless search for a concrete faith to hold on to..." ((partial”

Richmond Powers - The Capitola Review

“ Their jams, rhythms, and riffs are mostly deliciously country. Their attitude is rocking, edgy, with a story to tell and something to say. From the slower storytale, 'Time to Move on' to the rockin', toe-tappin' 'Asphodel Meadows' to the totally rockin' out 'Like Babel Coming Down' - every song is made to move you. Every tune is crafted to the tune of someone's feelings, and the lyrics are meant to say so much. The musicianship of every piece is professionally done, and all songs are professionally recorded. The vocals are clear, crisp, and forefront. The production is flawless.”