Friday, October 7, 2016

Album Review: Jamestown Revival - The Education Of A Wandering Man

There's one band that slipped under the radar that had a real chance to make room in the mainstream for a new, albeit old, sound years ago. They were The Jayhawks, and their rootsy style of Americana ushered in what was called the 'alt-country' phase, but it could have been so much more. There has always been an opening for well-crafted music that used the American spirit as a backdrop in a way that was far less pandering than Springsteen and his belligerent warbling would ever allow. But that time came and went, and we don't get to hear much rock music anymore that has that folk and country feeling in it. That's why I was extremely hopeful when Jamestown Revival reminded me of those days.

There's much of The Jayhawks in their sound, but updated for the modern times. That's both good and bad, if you're interested in keeping score. The dual vocals that run through the songs, and the buzzing guitars are pure Louris/Olson. There's blues and country running through the songs, but still enough rock and roll to widen the appeal to nearly everyone. The group's sound is the kind of authentic and inviting one that could have deep roots across the spectrum.

But that means nothing if they don't have the songs to back it up. There's good news and bad news on that front. By and large, the group does a good job of writing songs that play to their strengths. There are a number of tracks here that play off that rootsy approach with plenty of power to carry the songs. Those numbers are appealing, and I could easily see them moving the needle a bit. But there are some deeper forays into more traditional country, and those don't work as well. For one thing, the energy of the album completely changes when those songs pop up. As does the sound. They simply don't fit.

The other issue is that the album's production never settles into a rhythm. We get some tracks that are dry and tight traditional, if that exists, alt-country. We also get a few tracks where the drums are pushed to the front, as if to capitalize on modern pop trends. I think either approach could work, but they make for an odd mix on one album. I would have preferred a bit more consistency.

That's the key word. Jamestown Revival has written some good material for this album, but there isn't an entire album's worth of it. There are places where the album drags a bit here and there, when they try some things that aren't exactly in their wheelhouse. But, those are the smaller piece of the puzzle. Mostly, Jamestown Revival has made a solid album that is a good first step. In fact, considering that the band I keep comparing them to, The Jayhawks, also put out a record this year, I can say Jamestown Revival managed to out-Jayhawks The Jayhawks this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment