Angie and the Deserters – Blood Like Wine
This is rough and ready music for passionate people. Angie and the Deserters won’t let you set on the fence – they win listeners over with a rare combination of intelligence, torrid emotion, and outright musical virtuosity. The songwriting on their latest release, Blood Like Wine, is smart without ever flying over the head of its intended audience, but it also does an excellent job of capturing the intensity of the lives lived out in vocalist Angie Bruyere’s lyrical content. The band is obviously top shelf in every way, but much like the lyrical content, their obviously extensive skill set never gets in the way of their central mandate – communicating and moving their audiences in some small, but significant, way. Bruyere’s vocals are key to this and the production does an excellent job without ever losing the important musical adventure going on around her. It’s an EP and, naturally, a relatively brief collection, but it accomplishes much in a condensed amount of space.
“Country Radio” grabs your attention and Blood Like Wine never lets go from that point on. Bruyere’s voice commands immediate notice. She rises and falls, alters her timber, and shows an astonishing flexibility for filling the vocal space with a veritable potpourri of emotion. The guitars have a sharp edge, but they never entirely abandon warmth in favor of an aggressive musical thrust. There’s a much softer edge displayed on the release’s second song, “Smile”. It’s a traditional country ballad shorn of the strings and predictable changes often heard in the work of lessers. In the hands of Angie and the Deserters, a ballad offers them the chance to explore different textures and strike emotional chords in distinctly different ways. “The Gift” illustrates similar skills, but it turns on their willingness to play some with their musical formulas. The tempo is quite different from anything else on the album, almost shadowy, and it gives the entry a completely different character compared to the other songs. Angie Bruyere delivers one of her best vocals on the album.
“Ain’t Goin’ Down” promises, based on title alone, a return to the principals at work during the first song. Instead, the band prefers a more considered approach and takes their time arriving at a similar musical destination. Bruyere’s vocal is confident and assured without ever sounding brash. The final song, “Don’t Cry”, builds on the potential heard in the song before and reaches even higher for creating a lasting work. The melodic strengths are considerable and will draw listeners in from the first seconds on. It ends Blood Like Wine on a wholly appropriate note.
This is the future of R&B and country embodied in band form. Angie and the Deserters are firmly grounded in the modern era with attitude to spare, but they also prove themselves to be supreme interpreters of an art form long since demoted in our mainstream culture. It has an eternal appeal, however, and a release like this taps into those ever present virtues while still remaining fiercely original.
9 out of 10 stars.