Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Amber Waves by Bill Mallonee (Review)

Amber Waves is a solid alt-country effort by Bill Mallonee along with his former bandmates Jacob Bradley and Kevin Heuer.  The album, produced on a shoe-string budget, is a haunting yet hopeful collection of tight melodies and honest narratives.  Musically, Amber Waves acts as a photo album of past efforts by Vigilantes of Love.  "Break in the Clouds" and "To the Nines" recall the Struggleville sound, others like "What You Take and What You Leave Behind" sound like they were part of the Blister Soul sessions, and "Pillow of Stars," "Walking Disaster," and "Once Your Heart Gets Broken" reflect both Audible Sigh and Summershine.

Bill's lyrical work is still going strong.  For example, he opens the second track "To the Nines," with the line: "Well the rain and the wind/ they're at it again/Quarrelling lovers/Better run for cover/Yeah the rivers will rise/No one's surprised/You're gonna get baptized/One way or another."

The album is very up-tempo.  Of the 13 tracks (one is repeated for a total of 14), only "Yeah Yeah Yeah (I've got faith like butterfly wings)," "Long Since Gone" and "Into God Knows What" are slower, introspective and primarily acoustic.

Personally, I find the highlight of the album to be the Byrdseque "Walking Disaster"-- both musically and lyrically.  The jangly Rickenbacker, the driving bass, and the snare rolls move this three minute pop song from the chute to the finish line coming up for air.  In fact, there's hardly time to consider the brilliant lyrical pictures that Bill paints.  For instance, he draws a seedy picture of our depraved humanity with the following: "You stand and you make your confession/ in the suit of old clothes that you stole/ Offering your vain protestations/doused heavily in cheap cologne." He follows that in the chorus with the hopeful truth: "And the river of love, she still rolls on / Long time after the well has run dry."  Which seems to be more than a fitting reflection on Bill's career.  The ever elusive fame and glory (as well as a decent living) keep coming up dry, but he continues to roll on with his musings and melodies on struggles, faith and redemption.

If you are a VoL fan, this is a must have.  If you're new to Bill's work, click on and give it a listen.

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