STYLE: Roots/Acoustic RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 176834-28894 LABEL: Independent FORMAT: CD Album
Reviewed by Lins Honeyman
If you're followers of the American scene, you'll know that this alt folk trio from Nashville have become US chart makers. Their latest, 'Pep Talks', has an impressive five tracks currently rotating on the xRhythms playlist and it's easy to hear why. A hugely candid offering, this release tackles the increasingly relevant topic of mental health issues - primarily in a way that will connect with youngsters through the filter of each member's own personal battles - and, thanks to the sheer skill of all involved, the threesome pull this off with aplomb. Near the start, the self-examining stomper "Quarter-Life Crisis" is the closest members Judah Akers, Brian MacDonald and Nate Zuercher get to referencing their collective faith although the recipient of the song's call for help could as easily be a friend as it is God. The striking "I'm OK" takes things further by telling of the problems of life and issuing a retort to well-wishers before cleverly turning on a sixpence to highlight the dangers of bottling things up. Elsewhere, thorny issues such as alcoholism and divorce are met head on in the hugely poignant "Queen Songs" and "Pictures" respectively - the latter featuring a guest appearance by Grammy-winning singer Kacey Musgraves - whilst the more optimistic "GoofBallerz" and "JoyBoy" offer up some lighter moments. As the recent Cross Rhythms feature on the group highlighted, it's refreshingly impossible to pigeonhole this band with elements of bluegrass (there are some great moments from mandolinist Brian MacDonald) being mixed in with electronica - a case in point being the Avicii-like electro folk thumper "Over My Head" - but this rather adds to the appeal of an album which constantly twists, turns and surprises. A couple of less great numbers containing some McFly-like fluff near the end detract slightly but this is an otherwise brilliant release which showcases the collective skills of Judah, Brian and Nate and quite rightly brings to the fore the mental health problems faced by many young people today whilst offering up a modicum of hope.
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