Having tasted pop superstardom, Ed Roland settles down into his Georgia roots with his second project, the Sweet Tea Project. Here, he scales back the arena rock affectations of latter-day Collective Soul albums, but he can still operate on a cinematic scale — he has a knack for power ballads and has an innate sense of what would please a large audience — the only difference is, Devils ‘N Darlins, the first album by his post-CS outfit the Sweet Tea Project, knows when to pull its punches. Whenever Roland chooses to cut a love song, he doesn’t blow it up to dramatic proportions and he’s also happy to indulge his band in their various obsessions, whether its the reggae breakdowns on “Love Won’t Bring Us Down” or doing a bit of a folk hoedown on “Pile of Pearls.” Roland doesn’t hide his influences, not when he’s calling a song “Lennon’s Lullaby,” but Devils ‘N Darlins is interesting because he simultaneously plays up his Southern roots — both in regards to soul and to a foot-stomping country that’s not so far removed from Mumford & Sons, or other acoustic worshippers — and winds his way into dense, intricate pop. At his heart, Roland remains a populist, ready with simple, direct hooks, and eager to please. This creates some odd tensions — he’ll dig into some roots music then gussy it up to make it feel modern — but that’s why Devils ‘N Darlins feels livelier than almost any Collective Soul album: he’s had his success and now he’s ready to stretch out as he reconnects to his roots, and the result is one of his most satisfying albums.
01. Don’t Answer The Door
02. Let The Good Times Roll
03. The Thrill Is Gone
04. Paying The Cost To Be The Boss
06. Going Out Of My Mind (Walking Dr. Bill)
07. Guess Who
09. All Over Again
More than one fan called The World Is Saved a perfect winter album upon its release, and that’s a good assessment even above and beyond its striking cover photo, showing Stina Nordenstam standing in snow at night. Nordenstam’s move over the years from polite, jazz-inflected pop to something far more unusual and haunting — even while retaining many of the same musical elements she started with — has been its own underappreciated tale, and The World Is Saved is a striking new chapter, as befits an album that begins with the line “They put a needle once in my spine.” Nordenstam’s ear for her own vocal gifts might well be the key to her work, using everything from close microphone singing to distanced, echoed sighing, sometimes in combination with each other. But most often it is all about the voice as it stands, taking the central role in a song while never dominating it; the many musicians helping her often create some tight grooves and performances (the slink of “On Falling” alone shows that this album is as much for dancing as contemplation, while “From Cayman Islands with Love” singlehandedly makes the idea of trip-hop interesting again) but always with a careful and calm air. The steady guitar part that opens “125” is a prime example on its own, it’s at once serene and stark, then suddenly silenced by Nordenstam’s singing. The textural combinations that result can be a delight, from the mix between Hammond organ and a slipping, sliding electronic cascade on “Winter Killing” to the nervous, just off-kilter-enough string arrangements on “I’m Staring Out the World” (an absolutely wonderful song title) and “The Morning Belongs to the Night.” The American edition adds some tracks from contemporary singles to the end of the disc.
On only their second album, native Texans the McKay Brothers already show an affinity for great Americana-music producers. Their debut LP was helmed by Gurf Morlix, the well-heeled producer and guitarist who has nurtured the vision of, among others, Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard (of “Redneck Mother” fame), and Robert Earl Keen. On this album […]
In the modern age of country music, where genre blending is the new normal, it’s difficult to find artists exploring their love of different types of music for artistic and not commercial gain. Steve Wariner, who’s back with his first full-length country album in eight years, is an exception to the rule.Wariner doesn’t succeed with […]
Gene Taylor is an American boogie woogie and blues pianist who delivers his music in genuine good time New Orleans style. Tracks: 01. Chicken Shack Boogie 02. Six Weeks Old 03. Matchbox 04. It’s All Over Now 05. Walking To New Orleans 06. Oh My Dear 07. Feeling Sad 08. Junco Partner) 09. That Little […]