Thursday, October 20, 2016

Angie and the Deserters – You

Not all bands or performers succeed with the EP form. This condensed musical release often leaves those charged with the track listing a challenge in illustrating the diversity and avoiding a release that sounds too “samey” within an abbreviated space. The six tracks compromising You, the latest release from California-based Americana inspired Angie and the Deserters, stretch the definition of an EP release to its breaking point and smashes through any particular obstacles the form might present. This merits the same attention as a full length release. Angie and the Deserters have achieved a stunning balance of diversity with the EP’s jaunt through weighty ballads, inspired singer/songwriter fare, well-heeled honkytonk, a waltz, and even a little peppering of Southern Rock near the EP’s end.  Angie and the Deserters exhibit a wide-ranging confidence as songwriters and performers alike that goes far beyond their comparative few years on the scene. Bruyere, in particular, is more revelatory with each new release. 

Her ongoing evolution is apparent on the opening song. “Stay” is quite well written, but it’s plainly emotional center makes it ripe for amateurish interpretation in the wrong hands. Instead, Angie Bruyere continues here ongoing ascent into the upper echelon of popular music singers with a spine chilling vocal that pushes the song’s emotive qualities just enough and no more. The band creates a perfect musical backdrop for her, especially with their use of mandolin. “Forgetting to Forget” is one of the EP’s songwriting showcases and sounds, to this ear, much closer to the work of Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, and others of that ilk than what it does to the heavy-handed melodramas often produced generations before by Billy Sherrill. A song like this has the artful quality of playing, not too crassly, for the listener’s attention in its clever title hook, but alternating that with just the right amount of restraint in the verses and instrumental treatment. Angie Bruyere’s phrasing is the crucial final ingredient.  

The unusual time signature of the title song gives Bruyere and the band a chance to create a memorable musical and lyrical statement unlike any before. Their ability to pull it off seamlessly, each part cleanly interlocking with the next, helps “You” be one of the EP’s most satisfying performances. “17 Days” and “When the Nighttime Comes” are quite the contrast and certainly show some forethought – there’s a tangible rise in tension culminating with the latter song. “17 Days” gives listeners a gentle nudge from the outset and never relents. This honkytonk number has a light swagger and Bruyere locks in tightly with its swing. Guitar theatrics have a presence on the EP’s second to last track, “When the Nighttime Comes”, and it recalls the way bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd might have employed it. The rock strains never take over, however, and the undercurrent of mandolin and acoustic guitar supporting the song is constant. You will find a lot of favor from Bruyere’s current fans, but this should win over a bunch of new converts as well. Few artists, particularly younger, have tapped so successfully into the spirit of this music while coloring it with their own experiences, ambitions, and personality. 

9 out of 10 stars 

Dale Butcher

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