Expanding on the brooding statement piece Quivira, W.C. Beck turns in his most cutting collection of homespun balladry yet in First Flight, his all-new ten-track LP due out this June 7th. With cornerstones like the inspired swing-tune “Powder Blue,” reflective fire-starter “Among the Waves,” poignant “Grey” and sparkling “(Holding on) To a Coast,” First Flight is chock full of single-worthy songs that borrow as much from rustic Americana as they do alternative country and conventional singer/songwriter aesthetics. There’s a lot of layers to peel back in all of the material here, but despite the erudite stylization of the music, W.C. Beck’s third album is as relatable as they come, if not a bit more so. From “Steel Bird” to the sly finale “Cathy Jo,” this is one record that is definitely hard to put down once you give it that fabled first spin.
“A Place to Land,” “The Long Way Home,” “Grey” and “Cathy Jo” showcase Beck’s vocal against backdrops that are steeped in minimalist concepts, but even on occasions where the mic is divvying out the majority of the melodies, he never shortchanges us on sensational, top-shelf songcraft for even a second. “Cathy Jo” and “Grey” both sport some of the most evocative guitar parts of any I’ve heard this year, while “A Place to Land” shimmers like a pristine pond reflecting the summer sun’s boundless light. The strings are a real spellbinder from start to finish here, and complement the smoky timber of Beck’s lead vocal like few other instruments could have.
“Colosseum,” “Unknown Bust,” “Powder Blue” and “(Holding on) To a Coast” are far more virtuosic, from a compositional standpoint, than their counterparts on First Flight are, and they wholly represent an excitingly experimental new direction that (it would appear) W.C. Beck is intent on taking his work in. If this is the case, it would certainly be an awesome move on his part; “Powder Blue” alone is such an intoxicating cocktail of indie rock rhythm and overdriven country grooves that it leaves me incredibly curious about the sound that its formula could produce in an acoustic setting. There are definitely a lot of reasons to take note of what Beck is doing here, but more than anything else, it’s the progressive stance he’s taking on songwriting, and really, making a full-length album in general.
Whether you’re a country disciple, a hardened folkie, a devoted indie rocker or simply a fan of majestic melodicism and the occasional raucous riff, W.C. Beck’s First Flight is a worthwhile acquisition and a fine summer listen for anyone who has been craving a little pastoral poetry spiced up with a rock n’ roll-style moxie. This isn’t the first time that critics have been abuzz with the music of this talented young man, and based on the strength of the material that he’s given us here, I doubt that it will be the last. Beck’s got a skillset that has spoken for itself from one record to the next, and if you’ve never had the opportunity to experience his hypnotic harmonies for yourself, there’s never been a better time to do so than the present.