Album Review: Faultlines – Telephone Philosophies (NewMusicFriday Episode 16 winner)

My first impression of Faultlines was something like, “oh wow, these folks can SING.” The lead singer sounds like Jennifer Nettles and the overall sound reminds me a bit of the progressive bluegrass band The Green Cards. If you’re a fan of pop country music, you might not love Faultlines, but if you’re a fan of more of a traditional harmonic country music you’ll enjoy this one quite a bit.

“Wooden Bridges” is the opener and I have to warn you it takes some intriguing (progressive?) turns at times. It’s almost jazz in its construction. But the overall feel of the song and message works really nicely. The harmonies, like the rest of the album, is definitely the high point.

The second track “Waiting for You” is a hopeful “maybe love will happen” song. It’s a sweet song, really, and the vocal work is excellent. In fact, you’ll hear some inflections that could have come out of the discography of a 90s boy band. But no, this is a country act who can really sing well. The sound blends so well you’ll be swooning and dancing right along with the song. It’s also the album’s title in the lyric about “telephone philosophies coming true.” Nicely done.

The third track “If You Only Knew” is similarly down tempo, although with a slightly different message. The sweet sound from the lead vocal feels like a pop song. As the different voices take the lead, you can hear the versatility of the singers in Faultlines. It’s another song based on a relationship. Some of the chord progressions and overall structure have more of a jazz feel than a typical country song. It’s not often you hear so much by way of experimentation in a slow, more subtle song.

“Starting at the Finish Line,” if I’m honest, sounds like a wedding song at the beginning. It’s one of those songs where you’re shifting in your seat waiting for things to start. Maybe that’s a stretch, but the song certainly captures anticipation nicely. The melody follows a nice chromatic line and when the full vocal joins in, the song really takes off. I’d venture to guess that these musicians have a background in traditional/bluegrass vocals if not also church music. There’s definitely a spiritual feel to this one, also.

The last track “The Long Run” highlights an understated electric guitar in the opening. As the song unfolds, you’ll find yourself drawn into the sound, wondering where it’s going. The song has a different lead than other songs on the album. The lyric, “life is just too short to live for the long run” has a sort of hedonistic undertone but ultimately points us to deeper meaning in life. It’s a sweet way to end the album.

I’d call this collection of songs an interesting variety of emotions and quality. Some of the tracks stand out a bit more than others. “Wooden Bridges” is by far the best song on the album. Future work from Faultlines should continue with the hard-hitting, bluegrass-influenced style of that track. The vocal on Faultlines is in a completely different league than the rest of the album, honestly. That said, you’ll find much to enjoy from this delightful, unique country album.

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