The Austin-based Americana group Brandon Callies and the American Revival picked a fitting name, as they are reviving the Americana genre from what it has become in the mainstream. The genre is known for mixing older American music styles such as country, rock, blues and folk with a more contemporary sound.
Review by Jackie Ruth
On their latest LP from Hand Drawn Records, “Sounds Of Love And Ghosts,” set to release Aug. 18, they show a mastery of both style and substance within the 10 tracks. Even the album art rides this line between traditional and modern, with religious as well as romantic imagery featured.
The LP begins with its first single, “Leaving California,” which might set up a listener to expect a more country-western sound throughout, but for the vocals which have a more modern pop/rock sound. Despite the fact that this song and others on the album contain themes and narratives of heartbreak, road trips and drinking, another thing that sets their music apart from traditional (or even modern) country music is the geography. Texas is, of course, mentioned in a couple of tracks, but talk of New York and California sets these lyrics apart from country songs that tend to stick to southern states and smaller towns.
There are also several ballads on the album, including “This Ain’t A Sunset,” “Good Clean Fight,” and “Thinking Of Her.” “Good Clean Fight” brings beautiful piano into the mix and poetic lyrics, neither of which would be expected when listening to a song that declares “a good clean fight is no kinda fight at all.” Another song with a slower tempo is “Better Into View,” which is the album’s lone acoustic track, resembling more of the pop/rock mix than many of the tracks on “Sounds Of Love And Ghosts.”
Some of the songs are particularly effective in catching one’s attention and making the listener feel what the writer and/or vocalist is feeling. One of these songs is “One Rainy Day On Congress Street,” which is sure to be relatable to the band’s Austin audience, but not out of reach for others. The lyrics describing both the visuals and feelings of the story capture the senses, and there is a catchy string of non-lyrical vocals (“la da da”) toward the latter half of the track.
It’s clear that there is a fascination with the supernatural, or at least metaphors of the supernatural, based on the titular track and another simply titled “Ghosts.” The closing song is “The Sound Of Love And Ghosts,” which has a fast drumbeat and seemingly affected vocals. It features a more retro rock sound and a great guitar solo. “Ghosts,” however, is a true stand-out on this album. It begins suddenly, following “One Rainy Day On Congress Street,” with intense instrumental pacing leading into deep-voiced singing. It has a country-rock sound that blends the two genres perfectly, and the song would lend itself wonderfully to a Western-style horror film like “Ravenous” or “Bone Tomahawk.”
The album as a whole is strong and nearly seamless, with a great mixture of ballads and fun songs with which to sing along. This is the third full-length studio album from Brandon Callies and the American Revival, and it makes evident that they have made their place in the Americana genre in a way many artists wish they could. It also proves to be a solid sound for this time of year: enjoying the activity of summer but waiting for the cooler temperatures of fall to roll back around.
Originally hailing from Pennsylvania, Jackie has called Austin home since choosing to attend the University of Texas, where she graduated with a degree in multimedia journalism. She loves spending time with her dog, writing about pop culture in all its forms and spending time with friends – eating, drinking and doing trivia. You can follow Jackie on Twitter and Instagram.