|Photo by: Amazon|
Key Tracks: "Parted Ways," "The Arrow Killed the Beast"
Front women are somewhat of a controversy and a rarity, especially when the conversation shifts to the world of rock music. It seems that when a band emerges from behind closed doors, a leading woman attracts more buzz in the Biz than does her male counterpart. Badass women fronting those hard-rock bands were a special find, but thanks to the talents of pioneers such as Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and Joan Jett, rock music has acquired that feminine touch and paved the way for contemporaries like Karen O and Haley Williams to show their stuff.
Now set your sights, and ears, to Heartless Bastards. Leading lady Erika Wennerstrom packs the pipes like her predecessors before her, with that sultry rasp and that guttural blues-y in-your-bones punch. With heavy guitar and slammin’ drums, it’s a refreshing return to those good ol’ fashioned rock ‘n’ roll roots that those synthesizers just can’t compete with. You’ll know what I’m talking about with one delightful listen to the Heartless Bastards’ tune “The Mountain.” The fusion of Wennerstrom’s deep voice backed by swirling electric guitars creates a gem for the ears and a distinctive song that’s easy to pick out from their repertoire.
Heartless Bastards are an incredibly enjoyable band, full of foot-stompin’ beats and straight-up heart and soul. There’s a lot of good in the album, but turns a bit stale after a few numbers. The biggest critique to be made here are the missed opportunities for risk-taking and growth. The band has already made considerable strides from their previous work, but they could treat fans to more facets of their talent.
What the Heartless Bastards do, they do well, and can’t be faulted for that. It’s hard to imagine that these Ohioans were once garage rockers judging by their current sound—a sturdy, moody Southern blues jamboree polished to a tee. The group has certainly found their niche and offer up a blend of medleys to showcase Wennerstrom’s commanding voice. It’s the Heartless Bastards finest asset and they give her space to shine from the jubilation of “Parted Ways” to the melancholy of “Low, Low, Low.” The former is a tune worth mentioning. With it’s quick, catchy pace and Wennerstrom’s raw, honest lyrics such as, “I need a little bit of whiskey / And a little bit of time / To ease my troubled mind,” the second track is something Heartless Bastard’s should showcase whenever they can—good, clean, Americana fun.
There are also a few other prominent moments on the album. Wennerstrom showcases a gifted range on “Only For You,” treating us to her effortlessly high notes that aren’t often heard. “Simple Feelings” takes a trip down the harsher path of classic rock , while “Skin and Bones” has that back porch feel minus cool, cool lemonade. “The Arrow Killed the Beast” is particularly intriguing, with its slinky cowgirl-vibe and Wennerstrom’s boisterous chorus, almost like she’s howling at the moon. The construction of Arrow is a pleasant breath of clean air, an ideal driving-with-the-windows-down kind of deal, but it’s Wennerstrom’s voice and lyrics that take no prisoners. It’s hard to say how the tracks would fare without her.
Heartless Bastards continue to make solid albums whose rock-blues roots will appeal to lovers of the genre. Arrow is a fine album, but its tough to pinpoint any standout tracks. So for some lazy summer day, relaxation, throw on some Heartless Bastards. Chill out with some friends, munch on a few popsicles and watch the clouds pass by. Expect to have a lovely time with Arrow, just don’t expect to be blown away by it.
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