The Band Perry - Pioneer
For all Bob Harris’ tireless work, country music is still relatively small fry on these isles, especially for the more commercial arm that is so successful across the pond. Falling into this category are The Band Perry who follow up their self-titled smash US debut album in a mostly similar vein. The Perry siblings - yes, they’re actually related - follow an almost identical formula to Lady Antebellum: Kimberly sings, Reid’s on bass, and Neil bangs the drums, but despite multiple award nominations on home turf, they’ve yet to have the same levels of success over here, with only a tour of small venues last year and an appearance at the Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park gig worthy of note. Pioneer, which debuted at number one in the US Country chart and number two in the Billboard album chart earlier in 2013, is a slick piece of country rock-pop. It’s not a huge evolution from their debut, despite calling on the considerable talents of Rick Rubin. Long known for stripping sounds right back, as on the Johnny Cash 'American' series, the production here is still pretty full on - but unfussy with only a bit of added fiddle complementing the basic band set-up. Thematically, it's traditional country staples time. ‘Better Dig Two’ is about cheating husbands: “If that ring ever gets too tight, you’d better read me my last rights”. It’s a bit of a depressing story all told, but that’s real country music for you. Thankfully ‘Done’ is a happier tune, even if it’s lyrically still about a broken relationship, while the chorus “Love is shady, love is tragic” suggests that ‘Chainsaw’ maybe doesn’t have the most positive view on love either. If it’s straightforward rock you’re looking for ‘Night Gone Wasted’ is as routine as you can get, singable chorus, strong riffs; on repeat. So it’s a bit of a strange that segues into love song ‘I Saw A Light’ and the slightly soppy ‘Mother Like Mine’, the most obvious ballads on the record. There are cheerier times as well though; ‘Don’t Let Me Be Lonely’ is an optimistic number with a soaring guitar solo to lift the spirits, and despite uncertain futures in ‘Pioneer’ there’s a sense of hope. ‘Forever Mind Nevermind’ has more than a hint of Taylor Swift, the most prominent defector from country into the city of pop. Its refrain “When you said forever (Forever!) Never (Never!)” is very ‘We’re Never Ever Getting Back Together’. This is more rock and a little less country than their debut; well produced with eyes firmly on the mainstream. Despite some of the lyrical content, this is ultimately an enjoyable, feel-good affair.