You can’t beat honky-tonk swing when it’s presented as brilliantly as it is in the new single “Two Angels” from Jim Waneka, and that’s probably why so many country critics have found themselves infatuated with the song this autumn. Rather than punching us with a lot of big riffs and southern-flavored virtuosities that ultimately sound pretty retro for today’s modern sound, Waneka is giving up his own brand of traditionalism in this performance and ensuring that electrified Americana is still alive and well into a new decade, and a new chapter, in the history of country music crooning.
The structure here is admittedly the most old school element to behold in “Two Angels,” but even its presence isn’t enough to create a throwback vibe in the track. Waneka’s voice melds well with an old fashioned sway, and his verses have a more venomous, post-outlaw stylization than anything in first wave honky-tonk possessed, and I think that while he has a lot of respect for what his forerunners were trying to accomplish, he’s got a bigger mission on his shoulders than simply trying to recreate the magic of the past. That’s what a lot of his peers are wasting their time doing, but you won’t catch him doing that in this release.
These electric guitars sting harder than a bee, but they’re never overstated in the mix. On the contrary, I think this single showcases how easily contrast can be implemented into contemporary country harmonies without introducing an ‘alternative’ bend to the composing style. I get the impression here that Waneka really wants to avoid being lumped in with the lot of intriguing personalities gaining fame for hybrid concepts in 2021 while still being a bit of a rebel against the mainstream model himself, and from where I sit now, he’s accomplishing exactly what he wanted to.
Jim Waneka’s deep, smoky vocal is what binds all of the loose ends together in “Two Angels,” and with a voice like his, I think he could just as easily croon gospel, blues, or even a Bakersfield sound to us without stretching himself too thin. It would be a shame to leave his versatility unexploited, and with a little bit of time to experiment more with his limitations I think he’s going to find himself developing a richer, more full-bodied artistry than most of his contemporaries in and outside of the underground will anytime soon.
“Two Angels” is a superior listen for country fans and crossover buffs, and if you’re in the mood for something that lives by the Nashville code but doesn’t give itself over to the saccharinity of fleeting trends, its creator in Jim Waneka is a man you need to be following more closely this December. Waneka’s songwriting skills are definitely top-notch, but the manner in which he’s executing everything in this recording is really what stuck with me the most when I sat down to review “Two Angels” just a couple of days ago. He’s full blast in this performance from what I can tell, and if he’s not, all I can say is country fans need to get ready for the future.
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