Year of the Album — #049
Girls Guns and Glory – “Sweet Nothings” (2011, Lonesome Day Records)
Ever since I first heard the band’s 2008 album Inverted Valentine, I’ve contended that Girls Guns and Glory’s Ward Hayden is one of the strongest songwriters working outside the traditional Nashville scene. The Boston band knows how to rock their blend of roots country and alternative Americana, and Sweet Nothings is already a contender for country album of the year in my book after just a few listens. From the jangle-rock stomp of the title track, which may be one of the catchiest songs the band’s yet released, their distinctive blend of Dwight Yoakam-esque vocals and uncompromising musicianship is hard to put aside.
The songs on Sweet Nothings learn from the (few) mistakes of Inverted Valentine, rarely outstaying their welcome. These are crisp, clean melodies that stick in your head, and the recordings manage to be multi-layered without seeming to be overstuffed with conflicting ideas. “Nighttime” in particular has the kind of straight-ahead propulsion which Johnny Cash popularized, but there’s a great deal going on in the background, from steel guitar layered beneath handclaps and mandolin pickings, all providing perfect balance to Hayden’s trademark wail. And “Last Night I Dreamed” proves the band can be as successful in the opposite direction, crafting a ballad of beauty and depth which really gives Hayden’s vocals room to shine.
The name Girls Guns and Glory may make the band sound like a bunch of Southern Rock rednecks, but to brush them off so abruptly would be a waste and an insult. This is traditional country honky-tonk and Americana performed by a band comfortable enough in their own shoes to modernize the sound without limiting it to current pop conventions. Ward Hayden and company are blazing their own trail in the alt-country landscape, and this, their thirdfull-length album, shows they’re ready to play with anyone, anytime, anyplace. Give Sweet Nothings a few listens and you’ll soon be a stalwart Girls Guns and Glory supporter.
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