Angie and the Deserters – Blood Like Wine
The release of Blood Like Wine solidifies Angie and the Deserters’ standing as one the country’s pre-eminent roots acts, but they are far from imitators or gifted mimics. The six songs on her latest release might be rooted in recognizable traditions, but these long-respected and successful formulas are filtered through the individuals personalities of the band’s players and, most significantly, through the voice of Angie Bruyere, the band’s lead singer and lyricist. This is a collection of idiosyncratic performers and songwriters quite capable of adhering to certain designs while redefining them in a small but significant way with the distinctive spin of their own point of view and experiences. Blood Like Wine’s songwriting isn’t exactly the stuff of cheerful dreams, but there’s never anything particularly downcast about the album. Instead, Angie Bruyere emerges from the lyrics as a hard-loving, brawling force of musical nature capable of transforming the familiar into the electric.
There are no better examples of that on this release than the opening song. “Country Radio” is a supreme bit of bluesy songwriting with an overheated country heart. The guitars and rhythm section clash like the song is poised to erupt into a full blown boogie song, but the band pulls back on the reins in an effort to place atmosphere over sonic power. Bruyere sings, sneers, spits, and snarls her way through a relatively challenging vocal melody and pulls it off with singular confidence. “Smile” moves her and the band alike in a decidedly different direction. It’s much more in the tradition of country balladry, but Angie and the Deserters reject the schmaltz so often associated with that sort of fare in favor of a serious-minded, tasteful approach. The steel guitars are artfully employed and used in conjunction with lyrical violin work. Angie’s voice proves equally adept at moving from one type of material to the next.
Blood Like Wine’s darkest moment inarguably comes with the moody masterpiece “The Gift”. It’s a chronicle of love turned into obsession and Bruyere does a superlative job of whipping up layers of understated menace in her vocal. It’s quite a dramatic reading of a fine, equally tasteful lyric. Her lyrical talents are a key reason why the album works so well – they sound like they could come from no one else and it is quite obvious that the same economy wisely governing her musical vision extends to her lyric writing as well. “Ain’t Goin’ Down” approaches some of the same power heard in Blood Like Wine’s opener, but it isn’t nearly as geared for blues as the earlier song and has a much more considered build. The final song on the release, “Don’t Cry”, is an exemplary finale for a number of reasons. The audacious placement of an acoustic song as the closer indicates this is an artist willing to do things in her own fashion, but what begins as an acoustic track soon transforms into an appealing synthesis of AOR rock, country, and pop with an irresistible melody. It will undoubtedly rank, for some, as Bruyere’s best vocal on the album.
9 out of 10 stars.