Lights Along the River, the newest release from Maine’s own homegrown, The Mallett Brothers Band, is a potent mix of rock and roll, blues, and country that speaks to the band’s journey across the nation, the inevitable longing for all who wait back home, and the rebellious, joyful making of music on their own terms. What could ever be better than that? This needs to be in every music lover’s collection.
The Mallett Brothers Band bill themselves as country, rock and roll, and Americana. They designed Lights Along the River to leap from blues to soft acoustic to country steel to rowdy rock and roll sing along and then back again. Sure, we can call this Americana, the catch-all term for acoustic-heavy music that refuses to be hemmed in. However, what we really have here is high-end songwriting and musical composition. Each listen reveals more of the depth in these songs.
The Mallett Brothers Band is a fan favorite for their writing and studio talent, but they are really known for their dynamic and entertaining live performances. Each of the songs on this release immediately translates to a live show – hats pulled down, full throttle – even the softer, gentler tunes. That is the energy in this music and what makes it so good. These songs are alive, generously textured, and smart. The guitar work ranges from subtle, haunting effects to saturated riffs. Similarly, the rhythm work ebbs and flows, working with the songs’ needs. And of course, the vocal work, shared across members of the band, builds the dimensions of the songs. And no wonder. That was the plan. Watch:
Lights Along the River fits nicely into the MBB growing body of work. While the previous studio releases are well-done rip-roaring jaunts to check on a crop, young love, defiance, and angst, Lights Along the River feels slightly different. The boys of MBB have grown up, but they haven’t settled down. This time around, the music is more mature, overall a little bit lonesome, packed with variety, genre-bending, and, best of all – just great music.
I could go on and on, but enough already, let’s get to it.
Track by Track:
“Late Night in Austin” kick-starts the album with Luke Mallet’s unique gravel and haunting, acoustic, country rock. If this combination doesn’t pull you in, you are a lost cause. MBB translates from Portland to Hancock to Texas, finding and illuminating the common thread.
“No Rules in This Game” is up-tempo and laments/celebrates the reality of life. Will Mallett’s vocals are, as always, smooth as velvet.
“Sunny Day,” is sweet but stops short of sentimental. Luke Mallett’s vocals blur the edges between childhood and love song, creating a hook and a tune that has burrowed into my brain.
“Les Pauls” feels like a big stage, a massive sing along crowd, and some crazy drunk girls for the video. In fact, you can almost hear them in the mix. “Les Pauls” is bare, electric, glorious country rock and roll. Hands in the air, people!
“Don’t Mind the Morning.” Boys, if you think your back hurts now, wait until you are my age. A pleasing love song complete with LSD and pumping gas. And may I say, if you are happy with the person beside you in the morning, he’s/she’s a keeper.
“Tennessee” is rolling country from the first note. Spinning the tale of endless road and endless stages, “Tennessee” features harmony and “too much smoke and too much booze.” Luke Mallett sings ‘Seems like I spend my life in the passing lane. I still miss you when it rains. …time to make my way back home, hoping you’re still waiting where I left you…’ “Tennessee” is urgent but delicate.
“Rockin’ Chair.” Turn it up. LOUD. Blues and Joy. Undoubtedly this song was written for all the wannabes who wish they could rock and all the real deals who can rip up a guitar and bang on the drums. Full, throbbing bass, terrific riffs, and growling rock and roll. “Rockin’ Chair’s” ‘I choose my Joy’ could be the new Maine music anthem.
Slowing down, touching Earth again, “Lights Along the River” tells the tale of days on the water but may be a metaphor of what it takes to make it back to safe harbor, home. This acoustic, mandolin-studded tune is harmony thick, yearning, and uplifting. Will Mallett’s vocals swell and lead the tune.
“Sam Wood,” a ballad with a vintage feel, is drenched in sad guitar, lonesome prose, and a woman who just couldn’t be left alone. Strong guitar and low, edgy acoustic sound.
The harmonies and spirit of “Coronado” remind me of a vintage Emmylou Harris ballad, dusty and full of loss. Written by Matthew Mills, “Coronado” has grown on me with each listen.
“The Irene” is my dark horse of the Lights Along the River, weaving the iconic images of lobstering into soft, lyric-driven rock. There are hints of Gordon Lightfoot here, harmony, soaring guitar, and strong vocals tie the imagery together. And distortion. Fantastic.
“Look Me Up When You Can” gives voice to the memories at the edge of our childhood, dreamy and long gone. Accented with just the right percussion, this is a nice way to end the album but it is not to be. Just as the album slides into a nice, hazy feel…
Wally Wenzel makes ice fishing fun! “Tip Up,” a fan favorite, rowdy and built to sing along, cranks everything up again. I’ve only been ice fishing once, and had it actually been like “Tip Up,” winter would be a lot more fun. The only thing to do after “Tip Up” snaps you back into gear is hit repeat and listen to Lights Along the River again.
It is with a sad heart that Maine Music News admits that we missed The Mallett Brothers Band’s release party for Lights Along the River at Port City Music Hall, but we have our tickets for the July 10th show at 4 Points BBQ & Blues House and can hardly wait! Mainers, this band is growing in popularity and creating a fan base across the country – don’t miss the chance to catch them during our glorious Maine summer – here is a link to their tour schedule.