The most recent release from Angie and the Deserters, a six song EP collective entitled Blood Like Wine, is one of the best shots of American music you have heard in recent memory. The band tosses up a compelling stew of rock, blues, and country music with some pronounced pop leanings and the melodic results are quite unlike anything filling the marketplace today. The songwriting fundamentals grounding the material to earth never test an experienced listener’s patience, despite their familiarity with the subject matter, thanks to a number of uniquely personal turns taken in each song. Angie demonstrates a rather idiosyncratic vocal style as well with stresses where others might not choose to place them and a willingness to fill her phrasing with audible fire, The production places her front and center in the mix, but it likewise never negates the role such a talented cadre serves in their role playing behind her.
“Country Radio” turns the heat up high for listeners on the first song. It generates considerable heat thanks to its fiery guitar work and the relentless, yet tempered, hammer blasts from the Deserters’ rhythm section. Bruyere’s lyrical content is slightly revelatory. It’s unlikely going into this, male or female performer alike, that we will get some unexpected variation on the typical formulaic lyric attached to these sorts of songs. Bruyere defies that. She touches on some of the genre’s tropes, but the deranged honkytonk wail of the music finds its match in Angie’s hard won lyrical wisdom. “Smile” is much safer in comparison, a sedate ballad very much in the tradition of high class country, and the band pulls it off without a single misstep. Bruyere eschews any of the customary theatrics seized on by female country singers on this sort of material and this results in the song reaching a place of real pathos instead of just being another canned recitation of despair. Bruyere’s talents are so much greater than many of his contemporaries and songs like “Smile” drive that point home.
“The Gift” drags the release into darkness. This is the darkness of love twisted, gone horribly wrong, and Bruyere and the band alike capture that implication with impressive facility. It never risks melodrama however – the band proves that the old adage “it’s the notes you don’t play” is as valid and important as ever. “The Gift” gains much more from what it doesn’t do and rates among the album’s best songs. “Ain’t Goin’ Down” is another memorable number thanks to the band’s ability, demonstrated once again, for seamlessly shifting between seemingly disparate moods without sacrificing anything. The release’s last tune, “Don’t Cry”, is probably the most complete realization of the band’s arranging and songwriting skills. The band raises it up from quiet beginnings as an acoustic song into a striding, confident big pop rock number with a strong traditional music backbone. It ends Blood Like Wine on an appropriately high note without ever sounding corny or undermining what has come before. This is one of the year’s finest releases from a band were will all hear much, much more from.
9 out of 10 stars.