For the second consecutive day, we’re going to talk about a new release from the Texas country music scene. But I promise you will enjoy today’s music a lot more. We’re going to take a look at Micky & The Motorcars new album Hearts From Above. Micky & The Motorcars are made up of Micky Braun (lead vocals, acoustic guitar), Gary Braun (lead & harmony vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica), Joe Fladger (bass), Dustin Schaefer (lead guitar) and Bobby Paugh (drums & percussion). After releasing four albums under mainstream label Smith Music Group, Micky & The Motorcars have broken away from the label and are back to being independent again. Does their newly re-found independence make for great music? Yes.
The Best Songs on the Album
First thing I should point out is the instrumentation on this album is flawless in every song. I have zero complaints in this department. Every song’s instrumentation created the right feeling and helped convey the message of the song. A perfect example of this is “From Where the Sun Now Stands.” It’s a mysterious song and the haunting sound of the instrumentation really creates dark emotions when listening to it. Based on the line of “blood soaked ground” and other similar lyrics in the song, I’m guessing this is a murder ballad. But the theme isn’t real clear. (Correction: As pointed out by reader Dan below, this song is about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce leaving their home in Wallowa Valley. This was a careless mistake on my part not to research this and assume it was a murder ballad, although in my defense they lyrics aren’t real discreet about this and I’m not well versed on Native American history. I will try my best to avoid this kind of mistake in the future) I think that’s what makes the song such an intriguing listen. The tone is the exact opposite in “Once in a Lifetime Girl,” which is sincere love song. The toned down, acoustic instrumentation makes this a moving love ballad. Another song that intrigues me every time I listen to it is “Fall Apart,” which is about a girl who has it all and yet wants to lose it all (or rather the feeling of losing it all). It features some of the best harmonica play I’ve heard in a country song in a good while. Kudos to Gary Braun.
The band’s storytelling is at it’s best in “Destined to Fall.” It’s about two people with two completely different upbringings coming together and falling in love. One of the things that make a great country song is the ability to tell a story in the song. The lyrics in “Destined to Fall” hit a home run in this department. Take notes mainstream country music. The guitar licks are strong in “Hurt” and “Tonight We Ride.” You can definitely feel the rock and roll influences in these two songs the most, in an album where the rock influences permeate throughout it. Both songs are great just based on the stellar guitar play.
The Worst Songs on the Album
I would say the one song that feels underwhelming on this album is “Sister Lost Soul.” Another one that feels just above average is “My Girl Now.” The lyrics of both songs feel a bit repetitive and too simple. But this is just me really nitpicking them. They’re both solid songs that I just wasn’t blown away by. These would probably stand out on a lot of other country albums.
The Rest of the Album
The album opens with two love songs, “Hearts From Above” and “Long Road to Nowhere,” that are elevated by great instrumentation. The lyrics weren’t bad, but they could have been slightly better. “You Led Me the Wrong Way” is a short and fast song. It’s about a woman leading a man astray in a relationship and causing him strain. While the song does feel short, it utilizes it’s time well and makes the listen worthwhile. The same can be said for the drinking song, “Southbound Street.” This song has a great mix of country, Americana and rock influences. The guitar play in this song stood out.
I promise this is the last time I’ll say it in this review. The instrumentation on Hearts From Above is damn impressive. The only other country albums that have impressed me as much with instrumentation this year is Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Old Crow Medicine Show’s Remedy. It’s that good. Don’t sleep on the songwriting on this album though. It’s pretty good too for the most part. This album debuted at #17 on the Billboard Country Albums chart last week and I hope more people give it a listen. I have a feeling it’s going to quietly be one of the top ten best country albums in 2014 and will surely be considered for Country Perspective’s awards at the end of the year. I hope it isn’t quietly for the band’s sake because this group deserves more recognition. Some country purists may be turned off by the amount of Americana, folk and rock influences in Hearts From Above. But if you love great music with fantastic guitar play you will surely enjoy this album.