I was much impressed by the Oklahoma roots-rock outfit's self-titled 2015 album and given its chart and commercial success, I wasn't the only one. This is their fourth and I have to say it feels very much like a band in a holding pattern. Built around a theme of resilience, it opens in strong form with 'The Housefire', frontman Evan Felker's nasal twang recounting the story, based on people he knew back home, of losing everything in a fire, Ryan Engleman's electric guitar and Kyle Nix's fiddle providing ringing accompaniment. Unfortunately, nothing else has quite the same melodic clout or as catchy a chorus.
Which isn't to say these are poor songs by any means. 'Something To Hold On To', 'The Hard Way' and the twanging guitar 'Pipe Bomb Dream', are punchy barroom rockers, variously drawing on southern blues and country influences, while Pay No Rent', which features co-writer John Fullbright on harmonies, is a plangent mid-tempo tribute to his late aunt, its circling melody underpinned by Hank Early's pedal steel.
Elsewhere, Felkman on banjo, a scratchy rhythm drives the bluegrass urgency of 'The Winding Star' and its story of a strained friendship while, by musical contrast, 'Old Time Feeling (Like Before)' has a hint of the Glen Campbell's about it, though Glen would never have used the f word, and 'A Tornado Warning' lopes along in lively enough form.
It ends with a fingerpicked lazy acoustic jazz blues intro to 'Sunday Papers' before the rest of the instruments kick in to give more muscle to a song inspired by Felker's uncle Ervin (also the subject of 'Blue Star' off their 2012 album and whose own lyrics provide the opening line) and a goodtime celebration of 70s country rock. Ed Roth providing the jam band piano vibe.
It's a solid enough piece of work that will keep you engaged throughout, especially cranked up loud and longtime followers are unlikely to be overly disappointed, but, save for that first track, there's nothing here that really sticks with you and makes you eager to hear the next release in the way its predecessor did.
|Davey Anscombe: Summer Rain||O'Hooley & Tidow: Winter Folk|
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