Rayland Baxter – feathers and fishHooks

Rayland Baxter’s music is timeless and fulfilling.  He’s got the storytelling chops of last year’s brilliant Dawes album and a stripped-down sound that feels very familiar yet strangely unique.  The new album, full of love songs and heartbreak, is a songwriter’s anthem start to finish.  I’m really excited to share this artist with our readers here at ETTG.

The second song on the album, “Olivia” is just a wonderfully romantic tune.  “So Olivia won’t you let me in… I’m in love again.”  This song has a beautiful balance of sweet melody and an appropriate blend behind it.  Sometimes I complain about the terrible mixing in the music industry that seems to highlight the woodblock or the snare drum more than the actual vocals.  This song does a great job of letting the amiable vocals of Rayland Baxter actually be the defining characteristic of the track.

“Majoria” sounds, at times, like it could be off of a Ray Lamontagne album.  From any of us at ETTG, that’s high praise.  Not only is the song well constructed, it’s also a gripping song.  It’s one of the primary reasons this is such a lovable album.  It’s also probably the song that most reminds me of Dawes… again, high praise.  “No thanks to Majoria for these blues.”  This song was written by a lovelorn man.  The steel guitar makes it feel country, the lyrics make it feel blues, and the song overall feels like a comfortable old pair of shoes… that, of course, are split but still your favorite.

“The Woman for Me,” as I apologize for redundancy, is another wonderful song.  It again highlights Baxter’s troubadour skills.  “You can find me on the hillside looking all around… or out there by the oak trees on the edge of town… don’t matter where I go, don’t matter what I see… I ain’t never gonna find the woman for me.”  This song is for the single gents that have a glimmer, ever so dim, that there’s a woman out there for him.  It’s so well conceived and has a soft rock ambiance that sounds fantastic.  It’s a plea.  It’s a cry.  It is sincerity with a melody.

The more upbeat “Willy’s Song” has a flavor all its own.  It sounds almost carnival-esque.  It’s a nice change of pace in the midst of an overall relaxed album.  The honky tonk piano and the clarinet are a great touch to an enjoyable, reassuring and fun track.

The last song on the album, “Willow” is really good.  The harmonics on the acoustic guitar are interesting.  The unconventional melody line sounds as if it were influenced by some strange mix of the far east and traditional Celtic music.  I mean that as a compliment.  This song, above the others, supports the subtle harmonies of background singers.  It made me wonder for a minute what the album could sound like with more of those harmonies.  With that small criticism aside, I will say this is a powerful and unique song that finishes the album off strong.

Taken together, this is a BUY IT album.  “Olivia” and “Majoria” are the top tracks without a doubt.  The others, though, are also enjoyable in different ways.  It’s interesting to hear the rawness on the album as it appears to be mixed well.  The variety from start to finish is admirable.  I think this will be an enjoyable album for fans of particularly 1970s American rock music.  That said his influences from earlier music art forms is evident and the authenticity of the writing makes it an album worth owning.

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