The High Divers Have a Good Time on 'Chicora' But That's About It
Chicora is a perfectly serviceable throwback rock record that's easy to listen to; it's fine. But fine doesn't move the needle.
The High Divers
2 March 2018
Chicora, the High Divers' second album, comes with a built-in story of perseverance. In June 2017, the band's tour van was involved in a crash with a semi truck that flipped the van over and left everyone in the van injured to some degree. The band was back on the road a month later, and as a sweet postscript singer-guitarist Luke Mitchell married keyboardist Mary Alice during the mixing stages of this album
The band also talks in their official bio about how touring with and opening for a bunch of big names in the roots rock and Americana scenes for their first album gave them the confidence to stray from their own twangy Southern roots and allow some fresh influences for this record. Unfortunately, these "fresh influences" have resulted in an album so middle of the road, so 1960's soul and '70s classic rock-inspired, that it barely makes any sort of impact at all.
Chicora is a perfectly serviceable record that's easy to listen to; it's fine. But fine doesn't move the needle. Take opening track "Fall in Love So Fast." It's got a driving beat straight out of a '60s Motown song, and Luke Mitchell belts out the lyrics with energy. There's a decent wordless "Ah ahh aaaahhhhh" chorus. Trumpeter Clay White even has a nice little fanfare in place of the typical guitar solo. These are all elements of an interesting song, but it doesn't come together to grab the ears.
This is how it goes throughout the entirety of Chicora. Second song "Weighing on My Mind" is an ambling mid-tempo track that has good backing harmonies from Mary Alice Mitchell and some sunny '70s-style guitar leads, and nothing that sticks with the listener after the song ends. "Not Sharing" is upbeat and has good use of the trumpet, but that's about it. "Waiting for Your Love" is another easygoing song, but this one builds to a big, loud chorus that's easy to sing along to; and once again it just flits away out of your mind once the song is over.
It isn't until Chicora's seventh track, "Making Me Want You", that something memorable happens. Sadly, it's that the song sounds like a cover of Modern English's '80s classic "I Melt With You" for its first 15 seconds. But right at the point where that song's iconic riff comes in and the lyrics start with "Moving forward's using all my breath", Luke Mitchell starts singing an entirely different melody and the song just sort of…deflates.
The other striking moment on the album is its ninth song, "Side Man", which features Mary Alice Mitchell on lead vocals. "Side Man" features a genuine narrative about a married woman who meets a kind, attentive man in a motel twice a year for a brief evening of passion. Because of its narrative and the novelty of Mary Alice's vocals, "Side Man" is Chicora's most affecting song. Similarly interesting is the record's final song, "Midnight Room", an acoustic ballad about the pleasure of having a quiet, solitary place to retreat to. It's sonically distinct from the rest of the music on the album, and it is about something besides the typical I Love You / I Lost You lyrics that dominate the record.
The High Divers certainly sound like they are having a good time throughout Chicora, and they play with skill and energy. Their throwback sound to the mid/late 20th century could be a lot of fun and it probably does makes their live performances a lot of fun. But with the pedestrian songwriting and lyrics, most of this studio album essentially becomes pleasant background music, which was probably not the band's goal when creating it.