“You Just Hurt” from California’s Wreckless Strangers is a pleasant surprise for me. Going into hearing the band for the first time I felt a certain amount of weariness at the prospect of yet another Americana band with an extended lineup. I scoffed a little at the notion of a group of genre “all-stars” occasionally convening and making great music, no matter the depth of their friendship, regardless of their chops. I was wrong. Gratefully wrong.
The third single from their new album When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide is the first song I’ve heard. I’ll hear more. As a long-time fan of different schools of acoustic and electric blues, the Wreckless Strangers and “You Just Hurt” impresses me with the steady-handed way the players balance present and past without favoring one over the other. It has a complete effect on listeners. It isn’t purist blues, however, and makes no claim to being so. Careful listeners will hear a small but significant rock influence in the songwriting though, even then, such strands are cut from distinctly blue cloth.
It highlights a low-key capacity for surprise the band possesses. This is far from a strict by-the-numbers blues though there’s no pretending that the band aren’t faithful to the form. It goes down a little easier for listeners thanks to the backing vocals but vocalist/guitarist David Noble carries the load by far. He’s the song’s co-writer as well and it gives him an additional stake in the singing that even a cursory listen will hear.
It’s interesting how he gets such results. He’s never bellowing at any point, he wouldn’t have to performing it live as well and places a premium on nuance above all else. You hear it in the way he deals with the verses, how he changes things up for the song’s payoff lines, and he does all of this with a less than technically excellent voice.
His pairing on guitar with Rob Anderson is, naturally, spurred forward by the slide guitar. I don’t know who plays it, maybe they’re trading slide licks. It doesn’t really matter. I’m a huge slide guitar fan and the edge it has cut through any lingering misgivings. The pattern it establishes during the intro, burning hotter and hotter as it progresses, recurs later in the tune. It’s a near-virtuoso performance for me and on fire from the first note through last.
If the rest of this album generates this kind of heat, color me a believer. I’ll listen to anything this band does. They have a live presence at the moment, as well, and will likely be booking more appearances as the concert circuit continues returning to some degree of normalcy. I likewise expect that if When the Sun and a Blue Star Collide succeeds like I believe it will that these six musicians will try this yet again. It’s their third album because Wreckless Strangers has “legs” that even many longtime bands cannot claim and they’re writing material with staying power.
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