Amidst a colorful melodic patchwork of strings, Sour Bridges weaves a sophisticated serenade that is as evocative as the words it’s communicating are in the song “Tarmac,” one of the cornerstone swing tunes of the band’s latest album, Neon Headed Fool. In tracks like this one, along with “Nothing Between Us” and the addictive “Scrapyard Boys,” Sour Bridges present us with their most evolved and focused look yet, and hold absolutely nothing back from us in their brooding pastoral poetry and the magnetizing musicality that supports it. Whether you’re new to their sound or have been following them for a while now like I have, Neon Headed Fool is an excellent spring listen for the discriminating Americana fan.
“You Don’t Know,” “If You See Me,” “Dusty Waters” and “Headin’ Out West” are lyrical masterpieces that don’t rely on a lot of bells and whistles in the framework to impart an emotive message in their velvety verses. Contrarily, “Boot Healer,” “Do Ya,” “Ozona Breakdown” and the aforementioned “Tarmac” are all about their expressive instrumentation, which in many cases exceeds anything that the words could have dished out on their own. There’s a duality to Sour Bridges’ style that is on full display here, and it’s arguably much more refined and clear-cut than it has been in previous records.
Neon Headed Fool definitely benefits from its slick, top of the line production quality, but I wouldn’t assign all of the credit to its muscular master mix alone. Instead of being steeped in a lot of predictable pop polish, tracks like “Nothing Between Us,” “Dusty Waters” and “Ozona Breakdown” have a rustic, natural tonality that doesn’t feel particularly filtered. I would have to see the band live to be certain, but if the radiance of these harmonies translated positively to the stage, theirs would make for an incredible show to say the very least.
I hear a lot of hybridity in the song structures that define this album (which are essentially those of “Scrapyard Boys,” “Tarmac” and the countrified “If You See Me”), but these compositions aren’t so complicated that we have to sort through a lot of unnecessary fat to understand the narrative that the band is trying to get across to us. They’ve grown a lot since first hitting the scene, and I think you could definitely make the case that their approach to songwriting has matured considerably in comparison to what we’ve witnessed in their closest rivals.
Fans of bluegrass, Americana, alternative country and traditional singer/songwriter music alike would be wise to check out Sour Bridges’ Neon Headed Fool the next time that they’re in the market for exciting new melodies, as this album is chock full of as many as I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing this season. What makes this record so much more alluring than some of its mainstream counterparts isn’t just its broadminded stylization, but moreover the energy that its creators bring to its biggest moments, both singles and deep tracks alike.
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