Dan and the Wildfire are just the kind of band we like around here. They’re melodic, harmonic, and easy to connect with both musically and lyrically. They seems to tap into something that is deeply human, something that we all think, “oh yeah, been there” several times in their music. This is an album for a road trip, a party, or just background music. In short, it’s versatile and enjoyable. Do give it a shot!
The opener is about the nearly ubiquitous “Austin, TX.” That said, there are horns on this tune. It starts with a jangly Americana feel and morphs into a broad-reaching jazzy sound. It’s truly Americana in the sense that it mashes together much of what it means to make music in this nation. There are theatrical NYC elements, New Orleans jazz, and certainly a whole lot of rootsy country stuff. The spiteful lyric attitude about someone who left the author, “I bet you’re lonely as hell out in Austin, TX” is pretty much perfect. Well played, gents.
“When the Well Dries Up” has a nice existential easiness about it. Reminding listeners of Bill Withers, it’s a great survivor’s song. In some senses, Dan and the Wildfire are comparable to Marc Broussard. They have that same kind of embrace of life and good time music. Although the song is about the “end,” it seems to push people to think about living a good life right here and now. “How much more will I sacrifice?” It’s sweet and anthemic. The a cappella break near the end of the song is just delightful.
“Backwash” is just as unsettling as the title alludes. It sounds like a bayou jam that could have been on a Credence album. It’s about “backwash bottomshelf bourbon.” The harmonies and overall writing are far better than one might expect on a song like this. It’s seriously ready to be performed on stage in NOLA. It’s so good. Similarly sharp, but with a different ethos, “Angel” uses a minimal styling in its opening, highlighting the lead vocal. The harmonies on it, ushering in the full band, make for a beautifully full and comfortable sound. It doesn’t really sound like anyone specific, but feels strangely comfortable about calling out a fallen angel.
“Buzzard” shows off some really sweet, relaxing string work. More of a James Taylor feel than the others on the album it’s a sound many are sure to love. It’s comfortable and, almost… savvy. What I mean by that is that it’s just so smooth and attractive you just can’t turn it off. The harmonies are absolutely perfect, the composition clicks for a feel-good experience. The funny thing is that it’s about an ex flying over him, remembering that it’s really over. What an image! “Pick them bones until they’re clean… you ain’t exactly what you used to be.” How’s that for a cryptic insult!?
“Soul Shaken” perfectly infuses gospel music themes with a bluesy romance. It’s about the way a woman makes the singer feel. It’s sassy and a real jam track. “I’m so shaken for you there ain’t nothin’ anybody can do.” Haha. It’s followed by “You Gon’” which feels almost immediately like a Lenny Kravitz track. It’s a track providing advice to someone, but it’s also about the challenges of life. You’re going to have to face a lot of difficulty. You need to show endurance and good decision making, but the overall feel is that it’s worth it in the end. The music itself is an electric blues track with a hard rhythm and a repetitive blues riff.
“Til I Go” sounds like gospel. The opening organ with vocal solo is really great. When the harmonies chime in, they feel like a bona fide Sunday morning choir. “Til it’s my time to walk through the unknown, I’ll be by your side ’til I go.” It’s romantic and sweet about enduring the strife of life. It smacks of an incredibly advanced level of songwriting. Although much of the album has similarly solid song concepts, this one just seems to “pop” as the next level. It feels more honest, more sincere, and just plain moving. But then again maybe this old horn player is just a sucker for the trumpet solo…
“Train to Ashtabula” is a beautiful, narrative song. It’s the most “folk” song on the album. It has an old fashioned and sweet feel to it. It seems to be about longing to be together. Something about it reminds me of one of my favorite bands, Eagles. That’s a sincerely high compliment. A similar chill track comes in “Heavy Air,” a horn-heavy tune about a partner who is stifling with “bad air.” It’s obviously using some brilliant metaphor about someone dragging the writer down. It’s got a nice late 70s vibe to it.
“A Little Bit” has a relaxing feel to it too. Telling the story of moving on, it’s a song full of a lot more spite and frustration than the others on the album. It could play in a country roadhouse any day of the week. The album ends on “Quietly Into the Night,” a mandolin-based soulful reflection about life. “I’m not strong like my father was. Can’t bring myself to lick my wounds. My cuts are open and they sting like and I don’t think relief is coming soon. All that I am it ain’t worth a good god damn. I’m not going down with a fight. I’m going quietly into the night.” That’s a powerful turn of lyrics right there. It’s hopeless and actually tragic, given some of the power of other lyrics on the album. One can only hope that whoever write this tune finds purpose and greater meaning. It’s just too sad.
This is a great album. It’s honestly better than I even first anticipated. The tracks just don’t let up. They are all good in different ways. There’s evidence of musical and lyrical mastery on a number of tracks here. It’s hard to believe that this band is still “emerging.” They seem like the caliber of artists who could be a house band at a club on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and be making music full time. That said, I hope they tour nationally because I’d love to hear this exciting, captivating songs live. Needless to say, this is a must-buy album for Americana and blues fans.