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Il Popolo de Blues, February 26th, 2022

Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers - Dumpster Fire

26 February 2022 by Stefano Tognoni in Dischi, Reviews (Independent Production)

When you listen to an album relating to an artist, up to that moment, never heard of, sometimes you have positive feelings, even before starting to listen. For a detail of the cover, for a guest musician which we read about in the internal notes, or, as in this case, for the name of the band: "Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers", literally, The old fireman and the engineers cruel. Never was a name more appropriate, given that the band leader Ned Bollé worked for twenty years as a firefighter and paramedic. Their debut album, with the simple title Box1 is dated 2019, while the very recent Dumpster Fire, was released at the end of 2021. But who are the Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers?

The leader, as already mentioned, is the Bostonian Ned Bollé, a good vocalist and master of the slide guitar, and not only that, since in some tracks he tries his hand at other guitars, mandolin, bass, banjo and percussion. Alongside him are some very valid musicians from the Boston area or in any case of Massachusetts, the great Joey Pafumi (XYZ, Walter Trout, Paul Nelson Band, Coco Montoya, Buddy Guy) on drums and percussion, John Wadkins on keyboards, Marty Phillips on sax , Dana Andrews on harmonica, Christina Lacoste on backing vocals, bassists Lou Spagnola and Rick Plourde and, in Got No Spoons, Toby Soriero on lead guitar.

Dumpster Fire contains ten tracks, four of which are original, and six covers, chosen from non-trivial songs, such as Your Mind Is On Vacation by Mose Allison, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner and Barefootin by Robert Parker. Originals and covers, all of excellent quality and which make listening homogeneous, are inspired in the sound and atmosphere by the sounds of New Orleans, bluesy therefore, but very contaminated with R&B and southern. While recalling well-known names such as Neville Brothers, Subdudes, Dr John or the less famous, but no less valid Dr. Hector and the Groove Injectors by Dru Lombard, the Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers, thanks to Ned's voice and slide Bollé, and the variety of tools used, have their own stylistic identity. Dumpster Fire is an excellent album definitely recommended to fans of the proposed genre and to those who appreciate the slide guitar. A nice discovery, indeed, we hope to hear about it often.

Stefano Tognoni

Originally published Il Popolo del Blues, February 26, 2922

Review and Interview 2-12-2022

Ned Bollé: New Americana Blues 

Art may imitate life, but without a doubt, life has shaped the music of slide guitarist/multi-instrumentalist, Ned Bollé. He brings his varied life experience that are as diverse as his instrumental influences: Sonny Landreth, Joe Pass, Steve Morse, Danny Gatton…to his debut release, Box 1, by Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers. Slide guitar is Ned’s sonic paintbrush and Box 1 presents a variegated assortment of songs, unbound by conventional notions of genre. The American band Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers is a band from Boston, formed around frontman Ned Bollé. Ned studied at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston in the 1970s. At the same time, he was already active in the Boston music scene with his slide guitar. Dumpster Fire (2020), album from Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers, weaves ample doses of New Orleans grooves, southern rock and old school hard R&B into the band's blues roots. And after a year (or year and-a-half, really) that truly was a dumpster fire, few album titles are more appropriate for a blues record. Led by singer/slide player Ned Bollé, the album offers up a mix of four originals and six covers that, together, paint a picture that's haunting, inspiring and just plain fun.

With a band name derived from a line in an old Charlie McCoy song ("Lonesome Train Took My Baby Away"), blues have always been at the core of his songwriting and playing. "Somewhere around age 11 I heard Derek and The Dominoes," he explains, "and those first few notes Duane Allman plays on "Key To The Highway" galvanized me; I wanted to sound like that. That whetted my appetite, and then, like so many people do, I found my way back to the roots of it all - Robert Johnson, Charley Patton, those guys. The same thing happened with my love for New Orleans music, Robert Palmer led me to Lowell George, and that led me to the Meters, the Nevilles, Dr. John, and so on." On the songwriting side, Bollé's experiences from 20 years as a firefighter and paramedic provide for some soul-searing subject matter with "Tour Three" and "Got No Spoons." But it's not all bleak, as the true-life story and sardonic wit of "McArthur’s Cunning Ruger" and the relentlessly upbeat "Outrun The Blues" offer plenty of balance. "I envisioned this to be a blues focused album, but I didn't want it to be just one style. Part of that was expanded a lot by the instrumentation, horns and strings and whatnot. There's some second generation funk, some R&B inspired things... the idea was to layer in a lot of influences on a blues framework." 

Interview by Michael Limnios 

How has the Blues, Jazz and Rock music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken? 

Although I was born in Chicago, I grew up in Rural New Hampshire. My parents were both classical musicians, so that was always in the house. They encouraged me to try different instruments and by age 8, I settled on guitar. The local music scene was a big mix of the folk revivalists (Bob Dylan; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul and Mary) and Folk Dance bands with a mix of English, Irish, Scottish and Acadian/French Canadian Music. Around age 10, I was tuning the radio in my bedroom and came across WBCN. They were this new free-form FM station that played anything and everything. I started hearing Robert Johnson, Dr. John, Miles Davis, Cream, The Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Elmore James, Jimi Hendrix. I was just taking it all in. 

In school, I had no interest in history. It’s only much later in life that my interest in learning about the music I love pulled me into the history behind it. I had no clue about the Acadian history until I became curious about why the folk dance music shared so much with what I was hearing from New Orleans. Or just how deep the meaning of a word like “Freedom” has in the context of the blues. My musical interests have certainly opened my mind and world view. 

How do you describe your sound, music philosophy and songbook? Where does your creative drive come from? 

In terms of sound and songbook, it’s pretty eclectic. I like to draw from all my influences and I look to push the limits of what can be done with slide guitar. It’s like a big old pot of stew. A lot of ingredients go in (not always the same ingredients, and rarely in the same proportions), but it’s generally a tasty result. 

Lots of things inspire me, musically. Songs like “Got no Spoons”, “Outrun the Blues” and “Tour Three” came directly from personal experiences. “Gulf of Slides” (from our debut CD, “Box 1”) was a tribute to the folk music I grew up with and related sounds from Cajun country. “Bogged down” (also from “Box 1” is a musical journey of the blues moving from Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta up through Memphis and Chicago and out to L.A. and beyond. Lots of things inspire, but mostly its people and their stories. 

"I think there is a lot of great music being created today… across all genres.  Technology has made capturing and distributing music available in a way that was unimaginable 30 years ago. What I miss is the value that was placed on listening to music. You’d buy an album. Get it home. Cue it up. Listen to it start to finish. Both sides. Maybe even a few times." (Ned Bollé / Photo by Liz Linder) 

What would you say characterizes Northeast area blues scene in comparison to other local US scenes and circuits? 

When I first came to Boston, the scene was much more defined. There were some well-known players who lived here, like J.B. Hutton and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. There was The Speakeasy in Cambridge that featured nothing but blues acts.  There’s always been an audience for the blues here and once we get this Covid mess calmed down to where we can start to live in some sort of normality, the venues will feature blues artists because people will come see them. We got some great blues DJ’s that support blues from all over, Holly Harris at WUMB, Cap’n Barney up in Maine, Don Luisi in Pittsburg… they all do a great job of feeding listeners appetites for great blues music. 

Why do you think that Slide Guitar continues to generate such a devoted following? What touched you from the sound of slide guitar? 

I know for me, slide is about expression, expression that you can’t get with just your fingers. You can get a more vocal quality that really speaks to people. I used to be a bit of a purist snob: acoustic or just “Guitar, cord, amp” for electric. Having had the chance to listen, talk and play with Sonny Landreth, I realized “Why limit yourself?  If there are tools to help you express yourself, why not use them?” I don’t use effects or processing for the sake of using them. If it gives the sound I’m looking for, then I’ll put the technology to use. “Tour Three” is an excellent example. It has everything from acoustic resonator slide to some pretty funky effects on the electric parts. 

What´s been the highlights in your career so far? Are there any memories from gigs, jams, and studio which you’d like to share? 

For me, the highlights have always been about the energy and emotion.  Certainly, the chance to learn from Sonny was huge. He’s an incredible talent and the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. On stage? Quite a few years back, I was in a local blues rock band. We got on the bill to open for Matt “Guitar” Murphy for a show.  There was a good-sized crowd there and they were NOT there to hear us. The first few songs were not going over well. We slowed it down for T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”. By the second verse, the audience was all ears. You could feel it. Half way through my guitar solo, I look over to the right and there’s Matt, grinning his mile-wide smile. I was floored, inspired and humbled all at once. 

"While we all have our differences, we all bleed red and we all share the same emotions. We have far more in common than have differences." (Ned Bollé, 2021 / Photo by Catherine Elizabet Maranian) 

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of? 

I think there is a lot of great music being created today… across all genres.  Technology has made capturing and distributing music available in a way that was unimaginable 30 years ago. What I miss is the value that was placed on listening to music. You’d buy an album. Get it home. Cue it up. Listen to it start to finish. Both sides. Maybe even a few times. Now, listen habits are much less active.  People’s attention span can barely get through a Tik Tok video. Streaming is here to stay. It’s not Spotify’s fault or Apple Music’s fault. It’s a symptom of the shift in values. My fear is that even as the world emerges from the covid cocoon, we’ll just keep staring at our phones. My hope and belief is that we’ll want to get back to the experience of seeing and hearing live music and the feelings and emotions that are shared when the music is right and the audience and artists become one. 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be? 

I’d like to see more music classes available in schools. I’ve learned so much, culturally, through music. It really can open a lot of eyes about what we all truly have in common. 

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people? 

I don’t consciously write songs to make political statements. Sometimes they do, secondarily, and that’s okay. “Got no Spoons” was written from the experience of seeing a parent’s grief of seeing their son’s opioid addiction. The fact that it expended into the greed of a family that made billions of dollars by pushing their poison at the expense of society in general was just a logical extension. I want my music to share emotions, happiness, grief, sorrow, joy, excitement, because that’s what we all share. That’s what makes us human. 

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths? 

While we all have our differences, we all bleed red and we all share the same emotions. We have far more in common than have differences. 

Published 2/12/2022

COncert Monkey - 12/2021

The American band Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers is a band from Boston, formed around frontman Ned Bollé. Ned earned a living as a firefighter and ambulance driver, which largely explains why Ned chose the band name Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers. Ned is a multi-instrumentalist who studied at the Berklee College Of Music in Boston in the 1970s. At the same time, he was already active in the Boston music scene with his slide guitar. In 2019 he recorded his debut album 'Box 1', an instrumental album on which Ned demonstrated his class on the slide guitar. It contained a mix of own work and covers. The latter is also the case on the new album 'Dumpster Fire', which was released in November 2021. There are ten songs on 'Dumpster Fire', four of which are original self-written songs and six covers. As with the first album, Alex Allinson is the producer.

The album opens with the languid funky blues song 'Tour Three', an original song written by Ned Bollé, which Ned found inspiration during a night field internship in the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY during his job as a paramedic. Drummer Joey Pafumi and bassist Rick Plourde provide the heavy creepy groove and the raw and heavy voice of Ned Bollé is very suitable to tell this personal, yet unusual story. Ned's penetrating slide guitar and Dana Andrews' clever blowing and suction work on the harmonica enhance the tiring and difficult atmosphere in which to work even more. The over six-minute "McArthur's Cunning Ruger" tells the true story of McArthur Wheeler, he robbed banks in Pittsburg, PA. He believed that if he smeared his face with lemon juice, he would become invisible to the security cameras. He believed in that so much that he even laughed at the surveillance cameras while robbing the banks. 'McArthur Cunning Ruger' is a languid mix of soul and blues. The tight percussion of Joey Pafumi, together with the excellent percussion of 'Shockwell' Morency, provides an excellent beat. Besides his work on the guitar and slide guitar, we also hear Ned on the bass guitar, with which he even plays a short solo. The beautiful solo on the saxophone comes from Martin Philips, after which Ned cleverly takes over on the slide guitar. The female voices providing the backing vocals come from Christina Lacoste, Chat de Rouelle and 'Shockwell' Morency.

The first cover on the album is 'Barefootin', a 1966 hit by Robert Parker. More than one million copies of this rhythm & blues hit were sold. Ned Bollé makes it his own version by giving the song a rumba-tinged rhythm and a Nola sound. Ned takes care of the great percussion work himself and keyboardist John Wadkins and saxophonist Martin Philips also shine with short solo work. The excellent bass line this time comes from Lou Spagnola. 'Stack O Lee' is an old American blues traditional, first recorded in 1923 by The Waring's Pennsylvanians. With his gritty voice, Ned Bollé sings about the murder of Billy Lyons by 'Stag' Lee Shelton, in St. Louis, Missouri at Christmas 1895. By using the slide guitar, mandolin, but especially the banjo, Ned knows the traditional atmosphere and preserve sound. John Watkins has an excellent presence on the piano throughout the song. 'Your Mind Is On Vacation' is the title track of an album by American pianist, singer and composer Mose Allison, recorded for the Atlantic label in 1976. The original version is a jazzy, piano-driven song. Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers turn it into a very attractive blues shuffle. Bassist Ned Bollé and drummer Joey Pafumi provide the driving groove. Instrumentally, you can also enjoy Bollé's fat slide work, the exciting wind on the saxophone of Martin Philips and the gritty harmonica work of Dana Andrews.

If you've been a firefighter and paramedic like Ned for over twenty years, you've been through a lot of painful experiences. In the self-written, true-life 'Got No Spoons', Ned recounts one of the most painful and heartbreaking experiences he had during his career as a firefighter and ambulance driver. He saw far too many lives destroyed by the Opioid crisis during that period. In 2019 alone, nearly 50,000 people died in the US from opioid overdoses. 'Got No Spoons' is about a father who finds his very young daughter in the gutter with an overdose. Ned was able to prevent the girl from dying, but according to the father, Ned had not saved the girl, but had only kept her alive. With his catchy and haunting words, Ned will certainly touch a lot of listeners. John Wadkins carries the melody with his warm organ sounds and the fantastic and soulful guitar work comes from guest musician Toby Soriero. Got No Spoons' is without a doubt the best song on this great album. Lyricist Mack Rise wrote 'Cold Woman With Warm Hearts' for Albert King. It's a lesser-known song by Albert King, but interesting enough for Ned Bollé to make his own version of it. Joey Pafumi and Lou Spagnola provide a powerful and exciting groove and saxophonist Martin Philips and pianist John Wadkins add even more color to this attractive song with excellent solo work.

Ned Bollé has always been a big fan of J.B. Hutto, so it's no surprise that 'Too Much Alcohol' has a cover of Hutto on 'Dumpster Fire'. Many people equate 'Too Much Alcohol' with Rory Gallagher, but it was J.B. Hutto And His Hawks who first released the song in December 1965. Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers stay close to Rory Gallagher's version with their rocking version. Ned shines again with excellent fat slide work on the guitar and the mighty sax solo by Martin Philips gives this beautiful version an extra touch. Another brilliant cover is "Rocket 88," a rhythm and blues song that was first recorded in Memphis, Tennessee, in March 1951. The recording was credited to Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats, who are actually Ike Turner And His Kings Of Rhythm were. The single reached number one on the Billboard R&B chart. Singer Jackie Brenson was the saxophonist of Ike Turner And His Kings Of Rhythm. Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers make it a nice swinging version with blistering slide work by Ned Bollé, exciting saxophone work by Martin Philips, frivolous piano playing by John Wadkins and gritty harmonica work by Dana Andrews. The band continues to swing excellently with the self-written 'Outrun The Blues', in which the musicians are given ample opportunity with various solos to display their instrumental virtuosity. 'Dumpster Fire' by Mean Old Fireman And The Cruel Engineers is an excellent and varied album that will certainly appeal to a wide audience. The disc will certainly be played very regularly here. (8/10)

Walter Vanheuckelom

01 Tour Three 02 McArthur's Cunning Ruger 03 Barefootin' 04 Stack O Lee 05 Your Mind Is On Vacation 06 Got No Spoons 07 Cold Women With Warm Hearts 08 Too Much Alcohol 09 Rocket 88 10 Outrun The Blues

Ned Bollé: Vocals, slide guitar, guitar, banjo on #4, mandolin on #4, bass on #2, 5 and 8, percussion on #3 and 4 Joey Pafumi: Drums, Percussion John Wadkins: Keys Dana Andrews: Harmonica Lou Spagnola: Bass on #3, 6, 7 and 8 Rick Plourde: Bass on #1, 4 and 10 Toby Soriero: lead guitar on #6 Martin Philips: Saxophone Christina Lacoste: Backing vocals on #2, 4, 8 and 10 Chat de Rouelle: Backing vocals on #2 and 7 “Shockwell” Morency: Backing vocals and percussion on #2

 Read the original review: Here (in Dutch)


Translation by Google Translate Original Text at: 

Text: Martin van der Velde Firefighter and care provider Ned Bollé, with more than twenty years of experience in his profession, is back in the music scene. Not so long ago his album 'The Box 1' was released and now there is already 'Dumpster Fire' (container fire) with which he builds a bridge to his work as a firefighter. Ned Bollé plays banjo, mandolin, bass, percussion and guitar. The Mean Old Fireman also has a nice, heavy, raw voice, but his slide playing dominates 'Dumpster Fire', as can be heard right away in the groovy sounding opening track 'Tour Three'. Drummer Joey Pafumi (Walter Trout, Paul Nelson Band) is once again present with drumming in 'McArthur's Cunning Ruger', in which we also hear saxophonist Marty Phillips and keyboardist John Wadkins performing excellently. 'Barefootin' is built around a wonderful New Orleans beat. Ned's banjo playing in 'Stack O Lee' provides the authentic atmosphere in this old folk song, first recorded in 1923 by Fred Waring's Pennsylvanians. The short solid shuffle 'Your Mind is on vacation' is provided with solid slide play and is over in no time. No, then in the intro of 'Got No Spoons' things go a lot quieter, in which the band gradually works towards a languid shuffle and in which guest guitarist Toby Soriero is given plenty of space to solo. The much-covered 'Cold Women With Warm Hearts' by lyricist Mack Rice is presented here in a nice pumping shuffle version. But also the next two covers 'Too Much Alcohol' by H.B. Hutto and Jackie Brenston's 'Rocket 88' are completely customised. With the self-penned 'Outrun The Blues' we arrived at the last song of 'Dumpster Fire' nice and groovy and rocking. A wonderful CD by this slide-playing firefighter, who has found his roots again by browsing through the work of Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton, among others, and during a search for his love for New Orleans music, which took him via Robert Palmer to Lowell George and then The Meters, The Nevilles Brothers and Dr. John brought. In short, a surprising album by a band that knows how to connect rock, jazz, bluegrass, funk and country elements to the blues in a refined way and of which I did not know the existence before. An absolute must!

Translation by Google Translate:

“Slide guitar is Ned's sonic paintbrush…” Multi-instrumentalist Ned Bollé studied at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in the 1970s and was also active in the local music scene. He performed as a (fanatic) slide guitarist with, among others, Tom Hambridge and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. After temporarily putting aside his musical ambitions to be a firefighter/ambulancer, in his spare time he started working as the Mean Old Fireman with The Cruel Engineers, some veterans like bassist Rick Plourde (Brian Maes Band), drummer Joey Pafumi ( XYZ, Walter Trout, Paul Nelson Band) and keyboardist Chuck Whiting for the recording of their debut album, 'The Box 1'. Box 1 (2019) became an instrumental album with “innovative work on slide guitar and with original work by Nollé and classics, spanning various genres such as blues, rock, Latin and meth-grass…”. Lady Lupine's Christina Lacoste on accordion can also be heard on several tracks. “He brings his varied life experiences that are as diverse as his instrumental influences to this release and it features some of Boston's finest musicians…” Meanwhile, a second album has been recorded. Dumpster Fire was re-recorded with co-producer Alex Allinson and more local Boston musicians. The roots of the eleven songs they recorded are in the blues. Very bluesy and with a lot of slide guitar, the album opens with “Tour 3”, an original song that Ned found his inspiration for during a field internship, which he did with fellow paramedics in Brooklyn. On harmonica you can hear one Dana Andrews grooving. “McArthur's Cunning Ruger” is the story of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed banks in Pittsburg, PA. The man believed that putting lemon juice on his face would make him invisible to cameras. For this kind of thinking, the concept of “anosognosia” was invented, which summarizes a common symptom of certain mental illnesses. Also sometimes (referring to the researchers) called the “(David) Dunning-(Justin) Krueger Effect”. For the Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers, the reason for a relaxed jam. “Barefootin'” with Martin Philips on saxis a swampy cover of a Robert Parker song, “Stack O Lee” the well-known classic, a popular folk song about the murder of Billy Lyons by "Stag" Lee Shelton and "Your Mind is on Vacation ”, the Mose Allison classic. What he saw on the street inspired Ned to write “Got No Spoons”, a blues à la lettre under the motto “addiction does not discriminate”. A lesser known song by Albert King is "Cold Woman with Warm Hearts". Here starring Phillips and keyboardist John Wadkins. Not Rory Gallagher but J.B. Hutto wrote “Too Much Alcohol”. Hutto spent the last part of his life in Boston, where he performed a lot in clubs and received a lot of attention. Like many compatriots, Ned is also a fan of muscle cars. “Rocket 88” is a spicy update of the Brenston/Turner composition. “Outrun the Blues”, the closing track, is a much requested song from the band. If you listen for a moment, you'll know why! “For their new release 'Dumpster Fire' the Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers found enough inspiration around them, to make it another successful roots album with lots of bluesy sides…” “For their new release 'Dumpster Fire' the Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers found enough inspiration around them, to record another successful roots album with lots of bluesy frills…“ (ESC for Rootstime) Eric Schuurmans

As published:

“Slide guitar is Ned’s sonic paintbrush…“ 

Multi-instrumentalist Ned Bollé studeerde in de jaren ’70 aan het Berklee College of Music in Boston en was daarnaast actief in de plaatselijke muziek scene. Hij trad als (fanatiek) slide gitarist op met o.a. Tom Hambridge en Matt “Guitar” Murphy. Nadat hij tijdelijk zijn muzikale ambities wat opzijschoof om brandweerman/ambulancier te kunnen zijn, ging hij in zijn vrije tijd als de Mean Old Fireman samen werken met The Cruel Engineers, enkele veteranen als bassist Rick Plourde (Brian Maes Band), drummer Joey Pafumi (XYZ, Walter Trout, Paul Nelson Band) en toetsenist Chuck Whiting voor de opnames van het debuutalbum, ‘The Box 1’. 

‘Box 1’ (2019) werd een instrumentaal album met “innovatief werk op slide gitaar en met origineel werk van Nollé en klassiekers, dat verschillende genres als blues, rock, Latin en meth-grass omvat…”. Op meerdere tracks is ook Lady Lupine’s Christina Lacoste op accordeon te horen. 

“He brings his varied life experiences that are as diverse as his instrumental influences to this release and it features some of Boston's finest musicians…” 

Ondertussen is er een tweede album opgenomen. ‘Dumpster Fire’ (brand in een afvalcontainer) werd opnieuw opgenomen met co-producer Alex Allinson en nog meer lokale muzikanten uit Boston. Van de elf nummers die ze opnamen liggen de wortels in de blues. 

Heel bluesy en met veel slide gitaar opent het album met “Tour 3”, een origineel nummer waarvoor Ned zijn inspiratie vond tijdens een veldstage, die hij met collega ambulanciers deed in Brooklyn. Op harmonica hoor je hier ene Dana Andrews grooven. “McArthur’s Cunning Ruger” is het verhaal van McArthur Wheeler, een man die banken overviel in Pittsburg (PA). De man geloofde dat als hij citroensap over zijn gezicht deed, hij voor camera’s onzichtbaar werd. Voor dit soort denken vond men het begrip “anosognosie” uit, dat een veel voorkomend symptoom van bepaalde psychische aandoeningen samenvat. Wordt ook soms (naar de onderzoekers verwijzend) het “(David) Dunning- (Justin) Krueger Effect” genoemd. Voor de Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers, de aanleiding voor een relaxte jam. “Barefootin’” met Martin Philips op saxis een swampy cover van een nummer van Robert Parker, “Stack O Lee” de gekende klassieker, een populair volksliedje over de moord op Billy Lyons door "Stag" Lee Shelton en “Your Mind is on Vacation”, de Mose Allison klassieker. Wat hij zag op straat inspireerde Ned bij het schrijven van “Got No Spoons”, een blues à la lettre onder het motto “verslaving discrimineert niet”. Een minder bekend nummer van Albert King is “Cold Woman with Warm Hearts”. Hier met Phillips en toetsenist John Wadkins in de hoofdrollen. Niet Rory Gallagher maar J.B. Hutto schreef “Too Much Alcohol”. Hutto verbleef op het laatst van zijn leven in Boston, waar hij veel in clubs optrad en hij de nodige aandacht kreeg. Ook Ned is als vele landgenoten fan van muscle cars. “Rocket 88” is een gepeperde update van de Brenston/Turner compositie. “Outrun the Blues”, de afsluiter, is een veel gevraagd nummer van de band. Als je even luistert, weet je waarom! 

“Voor hun nieuwe release ‘Dumpster Fire’ vonden de Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers genoeg inspiratie rondom hen, om er opnieuw een geslaagd roots album van te maken met veel bluesy kantjes…” 

“For their new release 'Dumpster Fire' the Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers found enough inspiration around them, to record another successful roots album with lots of bluesy frills…“ (ESC for Rootstime) 

Eric Schuurmans

Link to review - Peter Lauro. August, 2021

I first met the Mean Old Fireman, a.k.a. Ned Bolle, in 2018 at the "Blues Speed Networking for Musicians and Industry" seminar put on by the Blues Foundation during IBC week. It's a workshop in which IBC participants are invited to participate in networking opportunities/mentoring sessions with blues professionals across all areas of the music business. It's set up like a speed dating event where every ten minutes a bell goes off, and the participants must then move to the next professional they have registered to see. My agenda consisted of discussing the importance of providing often overlooked information on album jackets that are very helpful to reviewers. It was my first time mentoring and Ned was my first registrant. Since that time, both of Ned's releases have left absolutely no guessing as to who wrote the songs; which of the three listed guitarists are doing what, and on which tracks they are doing it on; which tracks each of the two bass players are playing on; etc; etc. In retrospect, I can now say Ned got a "A" in my class... lol. 

"Dumpster Fire" is the second release from Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers, with four of the disc's ten tracks being originals - some of which come from Ned's real life experiences as a first responder. Although he's not really old and certainly not mean, Ned Bolle is indeed a fireman in the Boston, MA area. Musically, he plays slide guitar, guitar, banjo mandolin, bass, percussion, and sings the lead vocals. The Cruel Engineers consist of: Joey Pafumi on drums and percussion; John Wadkins on keyboards; Marty Phillips on saxophones; Dana Andrews on harmonica; Lou Spagnola and Rick Plourde on bass; Christina Lacoste and Chat de Rouelle on backing vocals; "Shockwell" Morency on backing vocals and percussion; and Toby Soriero (of Rosedale Junction, reviewed in March) on lead guitar. 

Saying "Tour 3", the disc's opening track is a Ned Bolle original, just doesn't quite cut it. Perhaps, telling you that the song was inspired by characters - some civilians and some co-workers - that Ned came in contact with during his field internship while working tour 3 on an ambulance that covered the East New York neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY; further explaining that tour 3 is the midnight shift and that East New York, plagued by poverty and drug addiction, has the borough's highest crime rate and is commonly called its murder capital; may give you more insight as to how original the song actually is. Musically, the dramatic rhythm feel Joey and Rick are laying down on the drums and bass, along with the eerie vibe created by Dana's harp leads and Ned's slide guitar chords, are the perfect accompaniment for Ned's gravely and gruff vocal presentation which encompasses the tiresome and worrisome mood that I'm sure a shift like this is conducive of. 

This original track, titled "McArthur's Cunning Ruger" is a satirical approach to a very true story. The title combines McArthur Wheeler, a Ruger wielding bank robber who Ned says "is an unmistakable man, a little short on smarts but he did have a plan"; and Dunning & Krueger, researchers of "Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence" - case in point, McArthur Wheeler. The fact that this dude rubbed lemon juice on his face because knowing that lemon juice could be used to make invisible ink, he figured it would have the same effect on his face, making it invisible to surveillance cameras is hilarious enough, but hearing Ned tell it is a flat out riot. Not that it needed it, but adding Marty's scorching sax and the extra rhythm of Shockwell's percussion work definitely put a little more smoke (no pun intended) into this one. 

For as long as I've been listening to the blues, I honestly believe I've heard every description of what's caused them. Some, like "my baby ran off with my Muddy Waters records" were clever, and even if they were true - quite lighthearted; while others, that came from real life experiences about tragic incidents, were indeed painful to hear. That said, I'd have to do some serious digging to find one as gut wrenching as what Ned describes on "Got No Spoons", a song he wrote from his twenty-two years of seeing way too many lives destroyed by the opiod crisis. The true story being told here is of a father finding his 'baby daughter' overdosing in the gutter. Although Ned was able to prevent the young woman from dying, it's her father's belief that the Narcan didn't save her, it just kept her alive. The songs gripping lyrics end with dad's powerful message to his daughter's doctor... "They say that no man can judge, I gotta leave that to old Saint Pete. But if our paths should ever cross, I'm gonna make damn sure you two meet". Having no children of my own, the tears that are now rolling from my eyes have me feeling that poor man's pain. On a much brighter note, the lead guitar work by Toby, that starts at about one minute into the song then turns into a mind blowing minute-and-a-half solo that in addition to being the disc's best guitar work - could very well be the best I've heard since reviewing his "Stompin' On The Front Porch" CD back in March of this year. Then, having been inspired by Toby, Ned breaks out into his own minute-and-a-half slide guitar solo that in spite of the tears in my eyes, put a huge smile on my face. Worthy of my ultimate compliment, let me now say that if I were still a nominator, "Got No Spoons" would most definitely appear on my "Song Of The Year" ballot. 

"Cold Women With Warm Hearts" is a cover of an obscure Albert King song. Oddly, but certainly not disappointingly, instead of string bending guitar leads, the musical highlights on this rendition include fabulous piano and saxophone leads by John and Marty, well fitted slide guitar leads by Ned and of course a powerful rhythm from Joey's drums and Lou's bass. 

Being a big fan of J. B. Hutto, Ned wanted to make sure he included a song of his on the disc. The one he chose was "Too Much Alcohol" which was actually popularized by Rory Gallagher. That said, with Rory's rendition being a solo on a resonator, the Mean Old Fireman and the Cruel Engineers are rockin' it like J. B. did on his original. Giving the song a 2020 vibe, Ned's reasoning for sucking down all that booze is to "kill the virus off". 

The liner notes about this track said "If you're gonna play a song about a car, it needs to move." Saying that the guys delivered on that statement, along with telling you the song is titled "Rocket 88" (Jackie Brenston/Ike Turner), should pretty much be all you need to know. 

The disc closes with the last of its original tracks and it's titled "Outrun The Blues (Album Version)". On the one sheet, Ned proudly boasts that on their streaming services, the single version of this song is their most popular. He also says that you'll only know why after you listen, but I'll just go ahead and tell you that with it's frantic rhythm; wailing horns; piano keys that are being pounded, not tickled; guitars getting shredded; and boisterous backing and lead vocals; it's a full scale three alarmer (again, no pun intended). 

Other tracks on this dynamite disc include: "Barefootin'" (Robert Parker); "Stack O Lee", a.k.a. "Stagger Lee" - a song that depending on where you look could be credited to any one of a dozen people and spelled differently that many times as well; and "Your Mind Is On Vacation" (Mose Allison). 

To find out more about the Mean Old Fireman and to get a copy of "Dumpster Fire" for airplay, just go to - When you do, please tell Ned that his friend the Blewzzman sent you. 

Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro 
Blues Editor @ 
2011 Keeping The Blues Alive Award Recipient

Playlister Club - 11/24/2020

" A highly melodious and festive track that is exceptionally polished to perfection. From the outset, listeners can get into the groove. There are exhilarating and infectious piano melodies amongst a lively whirlwind of bright tones. The solid texture enhances the track and adds to the creative brilliance. The track captures the essence of the iconic rock n roll era and evokes nostalgia. The track is danceable and thoroughly entertaining across the board. "  Gerldine Taylor, Spotify Playlist Curator

Hypelist Music - Facebook 5/20/2020

Mean Old Fireman & The Cruel Engineers are back with a new track titled 'Stack O Lee.' Ned Bollé, the band's frontman, brings you traditional bluesy sounds with raspy, soulful vocals in a style all his own. 

Despite the unfortunate delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ned is back in the studio working on his full length album which is expected to drop by the end of this year. If you like artists such as The Allman Brothers Band, Muddy Waters or The Avett Brothers and then we highly recommend you check out Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers on Spotify now!⁠ 
Don't forget to follow Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers to stay updated on all their latest news and releases! - May 14, 2020

Reminisce With Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers in Song "Stack O Lee" 

Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers is the heart and soul of music artist Ned Bollé. The rhythm of Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers music is smooth yet full of enriching properties. You can expect to receive a real and raw old-school sound with the group. With the combined surplus of instrumentals, the group flourishes with their collective melody alongside the deep and musky lead vocals. We're entranced, but honestly by the simplicity of Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers, and the joys that come from that. Listeners are in for a real Motown treat with Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers latest single, "Stack O Lee." You can physically hear the thick rasp in the delivered vocals, and once it's combined with the bluesy instruments, a reminiscent and reflective environment is manifested. We imagine "Stack O Lee" being played on those laidback, lax kind of days. Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers give off a natural sense of harmony; it's inherent to their style. That's why you can always expect authenticity with them, and also why you can expect every single release to be full of that rich, characteristic melody. The bright and thriving unity within Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers sound is incredible, and you'll catch us listening to "Stack O Lee" on a kick-back kind of day. 

Discover "Stack O Lee" by Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers here. 

Welcome, Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers! "Stack O Lee" recently debuted, and the song featured an incredibly homey atmosphere, along with some of our favorite old-school sounds. What inspired the theme for the production of "Stack O Lee"? 

When you take on a song that’s as old as “Stack”, you’re faced with a few options: you can take it update/modernize it. You can try to recreate an earlier, historical arrangement. You can stand it on its head: change the lyrics, the story, the pace or you can “move sideways, into another genre. Ultimately, I did several at once. The legend of “Stack” has been told in every conceivable genre, folk, big band, rock, R & B, even Hip Hop. It is, arguably the oldest Gangsta song, after all. The arrangement is fairly traditional New Orleans, but the banjo, mandolin and baritone slide give it a more rural flavor. The electric slide guitar takes the fill and solo lines that probably would have been sax or clarinet a hundred years ago. I wanted it to evoke an “Old” feel, but by relying on like “old vinyl” or “AM modulation” effects. They have their place. I really wanted the instruments and the playing to speak for itself. Alex (engineer and co-producer) has a great ear and an amazing collection of mics. We relied on old school ribbon and condenser mics, as well as a lot of vacuum tube outboard gear to capture the warmth of the instruments. I’ll assure your readers that no tubes were harmed in the making of this single. 

Let's talk more about the traditional sounds you incorporate into your music, especially so in "Stack O Lee". Can you elaborate more on some of the prominent styles incorporated into the song? How did the vision for "Stack O Lee" come to fruition? 

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of swampy grooves. You throw a rhythm like this at Rick and Joey (Rick Plourde and Joey Pafumi, Bass and drums, respectively) and they’ll dig out a pocket so deep, you could lose your car keys in. We had played it live a few times and it evolved into a very solid feel. It always had the place rockin’. Once in the studio, I wanted to keep that feel and give it a more textured… a more nuanced sound. The story is based (loosely) on actual events in St. Louis, on Christmas, 1895. The song’s origins are from further down the Mississippi, so a New Orleans arrangement was a natural. When you hear slide played on a swampy resonator, you instantly think of the Delta and there is nothing swampier than a baritone reso. 

Do you feel that parts of your music reflect the multitude of musical influences you have? Are there any visions stemmed from the musical creation of others? 

Although I was born near Chicago, I’ve lived in the Northeast since I was 8. My first experiences playing publicly were with square dance bands. The music had a heavy Acadian tinge, French Canadian, with heavy Scottish, Irish, and English influences. A friend’s older brother introduced me to Zydeco and other music from New Orleans, including Clifton Chenier. It sounded familiar and different all at once. It wasn’t until years later that I realized why. Afterall “Acadian” is “a Cajun”. I like to think of my take on this style as “North Country Cajun”. In terms of my personal playing style, Sonny Landreth has been an enormous influence, especially in terms of technique. In terms of the arrangement and production approach, Ry Cooder comes to mind. Ry loves taking an old tune, reworking it, and making it sound “old” and brand new, all at once. 

What do you believe will be the next move for Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers? Considering the resonant traditional sounds Mean Old Fireman & the Cruel Engineers are known for, what can listeners expect to hear next with future music to come? 

Like nearly every band and artist, the ‘Rona virus shutdown was a big setback for us. In fact, we had just finished tracking “Stack” when the Governor shut everything down. The mixing and mastering for “Stack O Lee” was all done remotely. I got the master file at about 11:30 one night. I listened to it on earbuds, got dressed, and ran down to the car and drove around the block so I could crank it up. As far as style-wise, we always like to mix things up. Our first album, Box 1 was a smorgasbord of styles: Blues, Americana, Country/Methgrass, Rock. Fusion, Zydeco, and that diversity of styles and influences aren’t going away. While I love instrumental music, I’m focusing more on vocal tunes moving forward. 

What can we expect to see from you through 2020? Now that we’ll have access to the studio again, I’m looking to finish up several more singles in the next month or so. Like nearly every artist, we’re waiting to see when gigs will become available, but we’re still on track for a full-length album later this year. 


Hypelist 1/29/2020 (Dutch)

Buzz Music - January 21, 2020

Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro Blues Editor @ September, 2019

A. J. Wachtel