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CD REVIEW: Blood Like Wine by Angie and the Deserters

Few bands under the age of forty working today bring the goods with traditional American music like Angie and the Deserters. While some might hear this or earlier efforts and thoughtlessly lump them into the category of retro bands, it isn’t the whole story. The key element separating the work of imitators from those refurbishing valid and long-standing traditions is the absence of personality. Memorable performers must be blessed with a spark of the unusual or their efforts risk, invariably, sounding too cookie cutter, too devoid of real inspiration. Angie and the Deserters risk no such fates. The six songs on their latest release, Blood Like Wine, sparkle and bubble with that spark of the personal. They are also delivered to listeners in the best of all possible sonic packages – geared for warmth, intimate, and perfect orchestration between the various instruments, some surprising, popping up on the album.

There are surprises in the opener. “Country Radio” steamrolls listeners as a ballsy, muscular slice of rhythm and blues inching towards outright boogie, powered by flares of biting guitar and a hard swinging rhythm section. There’s just enough reverb cloaking the guitars to give them a distinctive turn in sound, but the real surprise in the song is Angie Bruyere’s lyrical content. This is a rough-hewn, desperate narrative, but Bruyere’s voice isn’t buying any of it. Instead of country radio providing her some sort of life raft in the middle of life’s storms, it offers her affirmation of those storms and the fact of her ultimate survival. “Smile” turns the tide against the desperation heard in the first song and, instead, offers up the best pure balladry heard on the release. This is pure classic Nashville devoid of any under self-indulgence; instead, it relies on its strong melodic virtues to carry it through and they ably do so. “The Gift” shows a band capable of covering unlikely places on the genre map. It’s a little more experimental, tempo-wise, than the album’s earlier songs, but this darker shaded effort is keeping in tradition with the band’s musical pedigree.

“Ain’t Goin’ Down” bears some superficial similarities to the opening song, in the sense that it’s geared towards a rockier audience, but never reaches the same super-charged heights. Instead, the band demonstrates admirable restraint that allows them to emphasize the song’s subtleties. Bruyere turns in a suitably rousing vocal that embodies the message behind the songwriting without ever browbeating listeners’ with its obviousness. The final song on Blood Like Wine, “Don’t Cry”, has one of the release’s best vocal melodies assured to latch itself deep into listener’s memories. The mix of acoustic guitars, rock drumming, and big bites of electric guitar create a dynamic closing number that ends Blood like Wine on quite a high note.

This is one of the best outings from anyone this year in the traditional American music and a thrilling invocation of various styles that never sounds like its taking on too much. Blood Like Wine has spirit and instrumental excellence but there’s also a bloody, but unbowed, authenticity to these songs that makes them an even richer listening experience.

I-TUNES: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/blood-like-wine-ep/id1121465389

by Michael Saulman

In Short Words

Criteria - 90%

90%

Rating

This is one of the best outings from anyone this year in the traditional American music and a thrilling invocation of various styles that never sounds like its taking on too much. Blood Like Wine has spirit and instrumental excellence but there’s also a bloody, but unbowed, authenticity to these songs that makes them an even richer listening experience.

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About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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