The Cavalry - Build Your Own Empire
Nashville Rock, a mix of bluesy Southern Rock poses coupled with pop inclination and a assortment of traditional country tropes, has been one of the major commercial movers in the music industry over the last decade. The tide shows no signs of abetting, but we’ve fortunately been blessed to encounter a number of talented vocalists, songwriters, and bands who have enough artistry to elevate AOR radio’s natural heir far above their commercial level and closer to something resembling anthem-inclined high pop. The production on efforts such as this is usually top notch and Build Your Own Empire is no exception. The Cavalry’s first recording is a five song collection that, in turns, highlights songwriter and singer Tristan Jackson’s talents in each of the genre’s styles. He’s a full-throated rock singer, nuanced balladeer, and melodic performer who carries enough charisma that inhabiting any track isn’t much of a challenge. The band is largely a one-man affair, but Jackson shows the astute sense to surround himself with a capable cast of collaborators and co-writers.
“Don’t Mean You’re Gone” is the album’s first full song and completely embodies The Cavalry’s approach to Nashville Rock. There are a number of guitar fills with considerable bite that enliven the track while the muscular drumming sets an authoritative tone that dramatically contrasts with the melodic virtues. The genre requires a bit of a musical balancing act that The Cavalry pulls off extraordinarily well. “Wake Up Call” has a ethereal mid-tempo lift and abundant vocal harmonies, but shares a lot with the other songs on this release. The instrumentation takes a resolutely compositional approach to song creation; each part dovetails into the next and no one player ever takes center stage for a self-indulgent display of their virtuosity. Another highly stylized track is “When the Radio’s Gone”, but it is clear that if there are two songs aimed almost exclusively for radio play it’s this and the EP’s last cut. “When the Radio’s Gone” gains much of its impetus from how the song smartly manipulates its tempo at just the right moments and, once again, from musicians’ far more in tune with when not to play rather than weighing down the song with needless fat.
The concluding song, “Red, White, and Blue Jeans”, is pure Nashville Rock that takes aim for radio play and will likely score it in abundance. Naturally, given its title, the song has a much more anthem-like sound than those preceding it, but it never descends into cheesiness and over-exertion to achieve its effects. This final song on Build Your Own Empire is an emphatic exclamation point on the album as a whole and shows that Tristan Jackson, as The Cavalry, is operating on a different level altogether than many of his contemporaries. This is as good as an debut EP as anyone, any genre, has a right to expect. It is abundantly clear that Jackson entered the studio with a solid vision for what he wanted to achieve and he, along with the aid of his collaborators, hits all of his marks with room to spare.
9 out of 10 stars