It’s always curious when the lead singer of a successful rock act branches out for another project bearing his own name, but in Ed Roland’s case, the results aren’t just encouraging, they’re damn near revelatory. Devils ‘n Darlins, the Collective Soul leader’s most recent release (co-billed with something he’s calling the Sweet Tea Project) is a somewhat unexpectedly rejuvenating shot of adrenaline injected into what might have been a forgotten career to some. Reaching across his other band’s parameters to call upon reggae, rockabilly and country-western textures, Devils is far more ambitious and infinitely more interesting than anything his other band could have ever produced.
Leading things off, the title track uses an explosive train-beat to evoke echoes of modern day rock-country and the move reaches surprisingly energetic heights. That southern influence is also heard on “Forget About Your Life (For A Little While)”, as Roland steps out of the spotlight in favor of a particularly twangy Sweet Tea-er who lends an authentic flair to the vocal track. Even the mildly cheesy “Love Won’t Bring Us Down” works as soon as its reggae bridge kicks in and the horns provide a roots vibe that takes listeners as far away from December as the calendar year gets. As solo(ish) projects go, it’s hard to find a more fresh-sounding, well-rounded set from a singer best known for ruling alternative rock radio in the 1990s. Aaron Lewis, take note.
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