I don’t know how Erika Wennerstrom has done it, but she has somehow made an album even better than her last one. The latest incarnation of the Heartless Bastards (Wennerstrom – lead vocals, songwriter, guitar / Dave Colvin – drums / Jesse Ebaugh – bass, Mark Nathan – guitar) has launched Arrow and I urge you to let it pierce your heart. Wennerstrom’s powerful vocals have returned with vigor. The first track, “Marathon,” is the loveliest pep talk I’ve ever heard. Wennerstrom lets us know that it has been “a long way home,” but she has returned (from, it’s been reported, a break-up) with rediscovered strength.
She talks about it in “Parted Ways” (which has a killer beat from Colvin and a nice solo from Nathan), when she mentions that she “just don’t look at things the same” since the break-up. She is moving on to a “wide open space” and sounds like she’s come to terms with it while encouraging us to pick ourselves up from the dust and walk along with her and the band.
“Got to Have Rock and Roll” reminds you that the Heartless Bastards do indeed rock and that rock is often the best medicine for the blues. Still bummed about your break-up? Crank some rock (like this album) and shake it off. It’s a simple message, but it’s true.
Mark Nathan lays down some great licks and Colvin and Ebaugh put down a wicked rhythm that would make electronic drum programmers give up their day jobs on “Only for You.” Wennerstrom gets her flirt on with a lucky soul on the track. I’d be rendered speechless if she sang this song to me.
I’d also have any words that came to mind smacked out of my mouth by “Simple Feeling,” which is a blistering rock tune that you won’t be able to shake out of your head for hours. “Skin and Bone” is so good that I can barely describe it. Wennerstrom’s vocals, the acoustic guitars, the percussion…It’s so good it gets under your skin and into your bones. “Late in the Night” is another solid track, with Ebaugh strutting his stuff on bass while Wennerstorm sings about how she has someone on her mind late in the night. Then the guitar kicks in heavy in the last third of the song and you’re left slack-jawed.
“Low Low Low” is one of the best blues songs of the year. It’s about Wennerstrom’s former relationship, but she pulls through in the end with the lyric “I left my home and started to roam, a new beginning out here on my own.” If you don’t believe her, the album’s last track, “Down in the Canyon,” will quell any doubts.
I’m glad that after Wennerstrom hit the road she looked up and her band mates and the rest of us, because we got this fantastic album as a result. It’s stunning in how heartfelt it is. Wennerstrom is one of the best vocalists in music right now. After I heard their last album, The Mountain, I wanted to high-five her and say, “Wow!” After hearing Arrow, I want to hug her and say, “Thank you.”
For the kid in all of us – Here’s “Only For You::
By Nik Havert
Nik Havert is a writer, DJ, harmonica player, martial arts instructor, comic book publisher, crime fighter,music lover, cult movie enthusiast, and modern day Renaissance man. He hopes to shark cage dive sometime in the next few years and enjoys travel and good natural root beer.
I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” ~ Maya Angelou
“Woman is the Wonder of the World.” ~ Billy Joe Shaver