Friday, December 14, 2007

Reviews:: Joe Whyte Devil in the Details

This has been a great week for stumbling upon fantastic roots/Americana artists. First, Jon Jackson and now Joe Whyte. Where Jon is an fantastic artist that might toil in obscurity for years, Joe is teetering on the brink of radio play and soundtrack appearances. Don't get me wrong as that isn't a slight to Joe's songs, in fact quite the opposite. His tracks are polished compositions that can appeal to the masses without abandoning his roots/Americana fans.

Devil in the Details opens with This Foolish Heart, which hits you with the immediate melody of Rhett Miller's solo work. Strings, mandolin and a sing-along chorus all work well with Joe's vocals (especially when he hits the falsettos). It's the type of song you hear once, and click on the Itunes store and buy. Even the opening lyric - let's mess around like when we were 15 - is something you can't help but smile when you hear it.

It would be easy to stop there, but Whyte really crafted a strong record. He is able to change pace with full fledged band numbers (Let Me Down) and stripped down, slow ballads (the beautiful Out of Tune). After two infectious rockers he slows things down with the lap steel laced title track. The melancholy floats around the bending notes as Whyte reaches the point of giving up on a relationship. It's nothing new for the genre, but that doesn't mean it doesn't stand out.

That's probably the best compliment you can give a relatively unknown artist like Whyte. Alt-country and twang has been embraced by everyone from punk rockers to the coolest cool kids in the last few years, and musicians think tossing around whiskey soaked thoughts over a lap steel makes them an Americana artist. Instead, a genre long overlooked has become over saturated and dull. That's why records like Whyte's songs have so much potential.

Instead of another artist struggling to stand out, Whyte's tracks grab your attention with little effort. Mercury is a nice acoustic track with perfect harmonies (courtesy of Kelley McCrae), hand claps and mandolin and it shows that Whyte feels comfortable letting a melody develop. Unlike a lot of artists, he doesn't force 40 minutes of heart ache on you. Linden to LA is another rocker and the energy really provides the sweet to Wrecking Ball (I hate to play the sounds-like game, but Wrecking Ball sounds like Whiskeytown Ryan Adams) and No More's sour.

On Just in Case he sings, "I don't feel any better" and transports you into that blissful depression some of us search for; the times when you start over thinking your decisions and wondering what could have been. The end of your worst relationships are your biggest regrets. We've all been there, and Whyte is able to take us back. That's something bigger than roots music, which gives me the sneaking suspicion that Joe Whyte might end up being bigger too.

MP3:: This Foolish Heart
MP3:: No More
No More is a spare, gospel confessional with some dueling vocals, a few simple strums of a mandolin and a nice harmonica. That being said, it's also the most powerful song on this record.

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Posted at 12:52 PM by ack :: 0 comments

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