These three characters and their band make very listenable music, with the occasional absolute gem. They harmonise well, they are superb players. They write in and around their central style and experiment with tempo’s and moods and instrumentation. No wonder their live shows pack them in; I have seen them once and they had zero problems connecting with their audience. So a new album is welcome and here is their latest.
First track Heart Break takes a pattering and airy acoustic-guitar led tempo and emphatic Hilary vocal, the twanging banjo giving a country timbre. The melody is strong and the lyric describes a holiday from being half a couple, with something of an inference that it hopefully won’t be for ever. A focussed instrumental break would have made this a better song but it has pace and feel ; You Look Good is at a much harder semi-funk pace with the horns patch on the keys utilised and some spot-on drumming, the mix sort of buries the slide guitar but doubtless this is corrected in live performance. In fact, LA’s this does sound like a concert opening track..there’s a thought….
Somebody Else’s Heart has twinkling instrumentation before the male then female vocals, blending here and there..of course it’s not long (inside a minute) that a hearty chorus hits the listener. This is their art. Their voices are always rich without being OTT. A neat guitar break is well-placed but too short. A cool song. This City is a lot more downhome, banjo and initially what sounds like an alarming sliver of the dreaded vocoder!! But it’s just the compression, phew. This real breezy stuff. Again this sounds like a future performance favourite. The song could be a Bryan Adams number, punchy and catchy.
Hurt is aptly titled as the singer sounds truly bruised. The semi-martial drumming and string arrangement makes it sound just a tad Vegas but it is a beautiful tune and maybe one of the best Hilary vocals on the set. The solemn guitar run hints at the late Glen Campbell, that guy sure left his mark ! Army commences with neat guitar picking and Charles sings it straight but with an uncanny touch, hint of a rasp over one of the strongest melodies present on this disc. I would have had a trumpet on this, playing a counterpoint. Again a frustratingly short guitar break.
Good Time To Be Alive is a slow clapalong barroom tune, everyone singing well; Think About You is choppier, more urgent, clipped guitar chording, Hilary telling the tale and looking forward from a romantic fallout. Ah but she IS thinking about him, ain’t she…? Maybe the best song in this release. Big Love In A Small Town is as reflective as this act can get, a fantastic singing performance over lament chords.
These desolate scenarios are of the LA strong suits, their voices and harmonies make them work. The Stars stays with the gentle and thoughtful mood, superior lyric and again a strong chorus, suitable for stadium use.
Teenage Heart is another hey-look-back-at us kind of composition. Home benefits from a great backdrop and well-judged singing but it’s a bit formulaic in construction to my ears. The tremelo’d guitar sounds perfect. It is left to Famous to wrap up the album and out with the pedal steel to embellish a story of a spoiled child.
A thoroughly tuneful record with for this listener too many songs centred on the ‘should we have split up’ theme. Maybe a few more story songs would take their heads as composers out into fresh territory. Never Hurt Janis Ian or even Dylan. But so many acts would kill to sing and play this well….
In passing, a bit of digging will show any newcomers to this act just how wonderful their charity work and contributions have been..they even had a school building rebuilt when a cyclone too the original out. ! Some may find country ensembles corny and a tad cute, but the world needs groups like this. They work hard and care and even a hard hearted scribe has to grab a hat and tip it