The Virginia Sisters say that they are influenced by those artists that only seem to make an impression on people once they have sadly departed. Their body of work returned to after you know another album or another catchy song that falls under radio’s radar will never come around these parts again.
The band cite the late Warren Zevon as one of those influences, and you can clearly hear that influence on the catchy, roots rocker “Dazzling Blue”, which has singer and guitarist Roy Anderson sounding a bit like the late singer-songwriter. But it’s a great and rowdy tune that also consists of bassist Ben Prytherch and drummer John Motley. Catchy yet without doing anything to polish the rougher edges, The Virginia Sisters get off on the right foot with this up-beat, high tempo number brimming with guitar jangles in all the right places. Think of BoDeans or a countrified Soul Asylum and you would get the gist of the boogie-tinged song immediately. You think they were from Athens, Georgia or some Southern state, but in fact Ft. Collins, Colorado is home.
And they make you feel right at home as they ease themselves into “Deranged”, which doesn’t quite have the same oomph as the opener but gets good marks for the arrangement more than the lyrics. Poppy but not quite as tight as it could be, The Virginia Sisters sound a cross between The Clarks, The Connells, and Cracker, here. The hooks are what carries this song throughout; part country and part punchy power pop. It’s a song that also several others might have tossed aside but The Virginia Sisters seemed to have worked on a little bit with very good results.
Meanwhile “Oh The Night Is Fading Fast” is a slower, more thoughtful tune that has the band at the top of their game and brings to mind a bit of Mellencamp circa Uh huh, or a Golden Smog b-side. The only slight problem might be how the drums don’t kick in when you think they will, but a few bars later. It’s no big deal, though given how well Anderson delivers the tune, yet the fade leaves a bit to be desired. Another few riffs of guitar wouldn’t have hurt.
Unfortunately, the slope goes from the incline to the decline with the rather average barroom rocker “Beautiful One”. While okay, it’s a tune they probably did in their sleep or could do in their sleep, relying heavily on the chorus and repeating it more often than they should as they name drop Tina Turner, Valentino, and include a riot in Tibet which leads into fleshing out the song with some beefy riffs. This song sounds stellar, however, compared to the ragged but mediocre attempt entitled “Thanks, But No”, which might having you saying the same thing after it concludes.
The biggest problem some albums have are starting off great and then, for some inexplicable reason, they hit a creative wall with such force that it destroys whatever good tunes follow. The Virginia Sisters aren’t obviously guilty of this, but they come so close with a sub-par song, “This One This Time,” that ambles along with no hurry to finish and no real substance behind it. Elvis Costello might be able to put this one over the bar, but hardly anyone else could. The same can be said for another run-of-the-mill effort called “That’s Just Wrong”. It’s as if they’ve tried to take the musical high road to showcase their pop and rock range, but hit a pothole on that high road.
It takes a while for The Virginia Sisters to find that path again, but the Odds-ish “Don’t You Cry On Me” is definitely a step in the right direction. It’s a rootsy tune that has Anderson and his other band mates getting back to what works well for them. And “Everyone’s Wrong”, with its punchy beat and hooks, makes it all good, again. Following a short instrumental, “Leghorn”, the band returns to the earlier style of songs with “Caroline”, another heartfelt, Midwestern sort of tune that draws you in to what you liked about them in the first place.
// Notes from the Road
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