First, let’s get the negatives out of the way. I like the Ditchflowers, but I don’t like the Tampa, Florida, band’s album title, Carried Away, and I really, really don’t like the album cover. What’s the deal with the rosy-cheeked little kid and the concerned-looking rabbit playing dress up with a skeleton? Looks like they’re floating (or, uh, getting “carried away”) along a river or lake. Are they riding in a cracked eggshell? And is that a dancing angel on the back cover? But none of it matters, not the rabbit or the freaky kid or their boat on the half shell. What matters is that the Ditchflowers crank out darn fine music, and, more specifically, the fact that Carried Away‘s 12 compositions are action packed with melody and lush instrumentation. Helmed by Ed Woltil (who also led the Tampa band Mad for Electra) and Brian Merrill (formerly at the head of Barely Pink), who trade lead vocals, and with Woltil as primary songwriter, the Ditchflowers strum, swoon, swing, and sway themselves into a prime spot in your music collection.
Every song exhibits supreme musicianship and an insightful yet earthy lyricism—and that includes the few songs I don’t care much for, like the pleading “Sweet Mercy & Understanding” and the maudlin “Aunt Marie”. But when you get right down to it, the highs are delightful, from the sublime pop opener “My Next Life”, to the twangy “Since I Met You”, and “Boys”, a brilliant ode for every dude who ever had a road dawg. “Boys” was also a Folk category finalist in 2006’s John Lennon Songwriting Competition. Another high point is “Walkin’ Back”, which reminds me of a cross between the King of Queens sitcom theme (in terms of subject) and the theme from the Golden Girls spin-off Empty Nest (in terms of melody and tempo). And you gotta love “Kind Kind Kind”, a tragically funny tune about falling for women who are the opposite of the song’s title, especially with lines like, “I don’t remember when she moved herself in / Or took up the hobby of throwing things at me”, “Maybe I deserve these lumps on my head”, and “If this was 15th century England, you could just cut me / And leave me sittin’ here to bleed”. I could envision “Kind Kind Kind” as a response to Fleming & John’s hilariously catty “Ugly Girl”. Now…what was I saying about the album title and the cover? Never mind. It’s easy to forget the small stuff when the songs are so grand.