Take a little twang, add a dash of attitude, and a healthy helping of harmonies and what you have is a delicious dish called The Wicks. Okay so the metaphor is both mixed and forced, but breaking down the sound of this exciting band sounds cliché without a happy metaphor. A male-female duo with great songwriting, brilliant harmonies, and meaningful lyrics… try writing that without the words The Civil Wars…
But these two are not the Civil Wars. They are their own band with its own version of dark harmonic chords and an upbeat sound that smacks of classic southern rock. The opener “Solid Ground” is a hard driving country-rock ballad that fills ears with strings from guitars to mandolins. The power vocals of the female lead, including a far deeper range than expected, give the album a solid start.
“Paper Tiger” has all the angst and attitude one might expect from the accusatory title. “Your love is a poison that I won’t sip again…” Some of the best writing on the album, the vocals are a lot more Grace Potter than the subtle folksy duo expected on an album like this. That said, the track’s hard-hitting sound gets right at the kind of man who is all threats and talk, but can’t follow through. It’s a real, legit rock and roll song.
“We’ll Show the Rain” is another rock ballad highlighting the male-female harmonies that dominant the Wicks’ sound. Riding along a bluesy song base, the track pulls in influences from a variety of 20th-century American music, not the least including blues, country, and rock. The bridge, a repetitive expression of the key element in the song, follows a gospel music pattern. Not unlike other rock outfits from the South (Needtobreate for one), they have a great ability to fuse those styles into something unique. Oh, and the words are about perseverance.
The softer, introspective “Not Today” is the sound I expected from this album. While it comes across sonically as a kind of love song, the lyrics are deep. In fact, they’re about the remorse of a murderer. I’m not sure lyrics get any darker. But the art is exquisite. I liken the contrast of the terrifyingly sad lyrics and the hopeful vocal delivery to classic museum artwork with stark differences between light and dark. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it is emotional in an extreme sense. It’s easily the best track on the album.
The closing song “Apple of My Eye” is a nice stylistic compromise between the driving rock of the first few tracks and the much slower “Not Today.” It has a pop country feel to it, but still maintains the intensity that helps to define the Wicks’ style. “I love you and I’ll meet you at the river when you’re home…” croons of familiar relationship, sweet connection, and an idyllic naturalism (complete with an “Amazing Grace” reference). In short, it’s the sort of utopian song we needed after a song about a murderer’s remorse.
I mean this in the most complimentary way possible, but the Wicks are a band still finding themselves. I do not think a band needs to have all of their songs sound the same (in fact, that’s usually a death knell to a career), but the variety of styles here do not all hit on the best elements of the group. Future albums from the Wicks ought to include more along the vein of “Not Today,” revealing some of the influences lyrically from the classic country that clearly influences the song structures.
All told, this album is a great contribution for fans of rock-country blends. There are almost two different audiences for this album. Fans of legit southern rock will enjoy tracks two and three, where fans of more traditional country will enjoy the fourth track. But people who are fans of country music broadly defined ought to give this album a chance. All of the elements, from songwriting to execution, are in place for solid music. It will be exciting to hear what else this emerging band produces.