Album Review – Love and Theft’s ‘Whiskey On My Breath’

Love & Theft Whiskey On My Breath

The story of country music group Love and Theft is certainly interesting. They originally started out as a trio made up of Brian Bandas, Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson. They got their break into country music via the writing of Liles and caught people’s attentions with their pop country flavor. After two top 25 songs under Carolwood/Lyric Street Records, it shut down in April 2010 and left the group without a label. In 2011 Bandas left Love and Theft, making the trio a duo. Liles and Gunderson then signed with RCA Nashville, where they landed their first #1 hit, “Angel Eyes.” Their three follow-up singles flopped however and in October 2014 they parted way with Sony Music Nashville. They’re now with the independent label Hate & Purchase Music. They’ve released their first album under Hate & Purchase, Whiskey On My Breath. The first single from this album has impressed me, so let’s see if the album can follow suit.

The album starts off with “Can’t Wait for the Weekend,” which begins well enough with some acoustic guitar play. When the song itself begins is when it takes a wrong turn. It’s a boring, clichéd party song about weekend warriors. There’s nothing offensively bad about it, but it bores me to tears with its bland lyrics and vocals. The boring clichés continue with “Anytime, Anywhere.” The premise of the song is a guy willing to kiss his girl anytime, anywhere. Call it bro country, call it checklist country, call it whatever you want to, but you’ve heard this song hundreds of times already. This song is the antithesis to creativity. It’s more of the same again with “Hang out Hungover.” There are more clichéd lyrics and another song about a man trying to have sex with a woman. Nothing to see hear. This is another uncreative song appealing to radio.

Next is the album’s title track, which was the lead single and as I said above what colored me interested in this album in the first place. Up until this song, Love and Theft had yet to impress with a song because they just sang vapid pop country songs. This is a song of substance that deals with meeting Jesus and answering for your sins, but the man in the song doesn’t want to meet him with whiskey on his breath. The lyrics are well written, the song is decidedly country and it’s easily the best song Love and Theft has ever put out. They follow this up with another strong song, “Easy.” Love and Theft sing about how easy it is to love someone who captures your heart. While the lyrics are a little cheesy and checklist-y at times, they work for the most part. What really sells this song to me is the harmonies, which is part of what made “Whiskey on My Breath” such a great song. This is a pop country with a simple theme that makes for a solid song.

Based on the title of “Tan Lines,” I came into this song expecting the worst. Does it live up to this expectation? Yes it does. Within the first five seconds of the song you know this is not going to be good because of the reggae, beach beat you’ve heard in beach country songs before. The song is about getting drunk on a beach and finding girls with tan lines. While it might seem harmlessly fun at first, the chorus of this song will annoy you more every time you hear it. It’s easily the worst song on this entire album. I predict this will be a hit single and it will haunt us in the summer of 2015. I really hope I’m wrong though.

“Everybody Drives Drunk” is another song that when I saw the title of it, I expected a terrible, inappropriate party song. Fortunately, I’m very wrong. This is a song about how people are all under the influences of some past heartbreak or unfortunate event in their lives, meaning that we’re all going through life driving drunk. In other words, we’ve all been hurt and we are all influenced by our past. So the title “Everybody Drives Drunk” is actually quite clever and creative. This song sounds like it came right out of the 90s too. It’s a great song, although I find it bizarre that it follows “Tan Lines.” Love and Theft go back to being radio-friendly unfortunately on “Can’t Stop Smiling.” This song could have been good, but the lyrics are just too clichéd and unimaginative. I’m also getting a boy-band like vibe from the song. I will say one thing this song gets right is the mandolin, so at least the song sounds mostly country. That saves the song from being completely not memorable.

The next song is “Wrong Baby Wrong” and wait a minute…this song sounds familiar. That’s because this was a top 15 song by Martina McBride in 2010. I’m sure most of you will instantly remember this one. One of the writers of this song is Stephen Barker Liles, who is one half of Love and Theft. The other writers are Brad and Brett Warren (The Warren Brothers) and Robert Ellis Orrall. So it makes sense Love and Theft would be covering this song. Compared to Martina’s version, their version is more stripped down and bluesy, as it has a nice dose of harmonica play. While this version isn’t as powerfully vocally, it’s better instrumentally and production wise.

The album continues its schizophrenic behavior with “Like I Feel It.” What I said for “Can’t Stop Smiling” above, you can say the same for this song. The lyrics are bad, but the instrumentation is actually good. The vocals are very average at times and at other times cringe worthy, especially in the bridge where they add an echo effect to their voices. Why artists are compelled to add this to their songs is beyond me. The album ends with the party song, “Get Drunk and Make Friends.” While this will make you roll your eyes, let me expound upon this. It’s actually a country party song. The main instrumentation in this song is the piano and harmonica. The lyrics aren’t offensive and are actually kind of fun. This is a country party song done right and reminds me of the feel good country songs of the past. So it’s a great way to end the album.

I have no idea what the hell I just listened to, as Whiskey On My Breath was literally all over the place. There are times on this album where I roll my eyes and cringe, while there are other moments where I applaud the creativity and instrumentation. A psychologist would say Love and Theft is experiencing an identity problem, as they have no idea what they want to be with this album. There’s really a song on it for everyone, which I guess is okay. But for an album as a whole it sends mixed messages. So with that being said I would recommend listening to “Whiskey on My Breath,” “Easy,” “Everybody Drives Drunk,” “Wrong Baby Wrong” and “Get Drunk and Make Friends.” If you like vapid party songs, check out the rest. I give a half-recommendation, half-condemnation. Love and Theft’s Whiskey On My Breath isn’t among the best, nor worst country albums you’ll hear in 2015.

Grade: 5/10

11 thoughts on “Album Review – Love and Theft’s ‘Whiskey On My Breath’

  1. Raymond February 11, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    I’m gonna say this once and only once I think of Love and Theft I think of them as the inferior Florida Georgia Line. When you said that Gretchen Wilson was just like Miranda Lambert it actually made me realize the inferiors or the ones in the shadows Miranda to Gretchen. Lady Antebellum to Gloriana Love And Theft to Florida Georgia Line. Luke Bryan to Cole Swindell.
    Anyways if there’s one thing I also looked at is when you look at people who had their breakout songs in 2012 they’re either done. Love and Theft and Greg Bates. Or struggling Jana Kramer Gloriana and Dustin Lynch it’s really fascinating seeing how many artists are chewed up and spit out plus how why why does Jon Pardi When I’ve Been Drinking leave the charts soon out of all the artists that had a hit song in 2014 they decide to get rid of him why not Chase Rice or for the love of everything Cole Swindell the guy who is the male equivalent to Raelynn.
    Sorry for that Rant looking forward to what other song reviews or albums you might do. I’d give this about a 5/10. This is another act trying to appeal to both sides of the fence.

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  2. E February 11, 2015 / 1:13 pm

    I think this is a fair review… But I will say that I disagree with much of it. What you see as schizophrenic and an apparent identity crisis, I see as a balance of differing types of songs. And if you’re not impressed with the vocals, you might not be listening hard enough – Love and Theft are a true duo, seemlessly harmonizing and switching lead. Though I guess everyone has their preferences. Also, I’d say this album is a lot less pop-ish than they previous ones, and more country sounding than a lot of what’s one the radio today. Some of the lyrics might be simple, but I think they work. Not one song on here is forgettable for me. I find Whiskey on My Breath to be an easy listen, with doses of reality mixed in. Maybe it is all over the place from certain perspectives, and of course there’s always room for improvement, but I’d say they did a fantastic job of pulling together an album that reflects them in only a few months, on their own.

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    • Josh Schott February 11, 2015 / 2:23 pm

      As I said in the review, it’s okay to have a variety of different songs. But it doesn’t feel like a true album. It just feels like a bunch of songs together and I’ll give them some slack since they had to throw this together rather quickly. It was pretty shitty what RCA Nashville did to them and I hope their newfound creative freedom will allow them to continue to produce better music like they did on this album.

      Their harmonizing is good in certain spots, as I mention. But I wanted to hear more. Also I wished they took a more acoustic, stripped down approach across the entire album. A few of the songs could have been good in my eyes if they just stripped some of the instrumentation away because I felt it crowded out their vocals. You also have to remember I’ve reviewed several duos in the last year and I’ve heard better harmonization (First Aid Kit, Shovels & Rope, The Secret Sisters).

      Like I said after reading their story and hearing about how this was thrown together, this is a pretty good effort on their part. If they follow the harmonization + stripped down acoustic approach all the way through on the next album (along with proper preparation and time), I expect it to be pretty good. The best is really yet to come for them I believe, as this album convinced me they have great potential.

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      • E February 11, 2015 / 5:58 pm

        I don’t know, maybe I’m giving them too much credit because of the circumstances. But personally, I was genuinely really impressed and think it’s their best album they’ve put out. I mean, at times their vocals seem a bit overpowered by the instrumentation (but for me it was more volume control than too much instrumentation – I just might not have a very critical ear, but I’m not a person who often appreciates the composition of songs just as much as the lyrics, and I did this time).

        I’m probably just biased towards their harmonization, as in all the years I’ve listened to them, I’m still being impressed by the way their voices seem to fit together and switch off – I haven’t been exposed to any better harmonizing (currently) than what I’ve heard from them.

        As I said, I do think your review was very fair. I’m extremely biased when it comes to LNT, I suppose, so I know as hard as I try I can’t be objective about the album. I just had to put my two cents in because I’m that person.

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  3. Zack February 11, 2015 / 6:41 pm

    Well here it is, the album I’ve been waiting to hear (as you could tell from several comments I’ve made in other posts). And, well its ok I guess but I’m definently disappointed. Just way too many cliched “love” songs that sound a lot alike, even if their is some more interesting instrumentation than their past efforts (and really a lot of mainstream country). They sound great vocally, and I quite like the harmonies, definently a highpoint. Except for Tanlines, they really don’t sink into what I call offensive territory, but aside from the title track, Everybody Drives Drunk, and Wrong Baby Wrong there aren’t really many highpoints either.

    But hey, I’m still in L&T’s corner. I’ve always enjoyed them honestly, sure most of their music is fluff, but its always felt ok to me and they even dealt with a more serious subject on their last album titled Town Drunk which is very similar in theme to Whiskey On My Breath. Perhaps with a few more listens I can say the same about the album. Its certainly the best of their 3 and I’m honestly probably judging it harder mostly because I expect more from them now. But hey I understand their story with RCA and I know they got dealt with a shitty hand. Coming up with a song like Whiskey… in such a short amount of time after they were dropped proves the duo is capable of much more. And really the album is better than a lot of mainstream albums from last year, albums that had time to be made good or at least decent.

    I remember reading an article on these guys when their song “Night That You’ll Never Forget” was charting. They were actually talking about their upcoming album (not this one, the one that they would have made for RCA) and they said even then that they wanted the album to be a little more serious. They even had a working title track, “The Blade”. They didn’t really share what the song was about but they did share the hook, “You caught the handle, I caught the blade”. Could be interpreted a couple different ways but still an interesting lyric.

    In the end, look Love and Theft, I know you like to record some fun songs and for what they’re worth, they’re are not bad. But you don’t need to keep chasing after a hit, you know why people are paying attention to you now and giving acclaim? its because of a song like Whiskey On My Breath that actually means something to people and actually made some take you guys seriously. I’m sure with time you guys will realize that you can do your own thing and craft an album where your vocals shine, the songwriting is much stronger and feels genuine.

    Overall I probably give the album a 5/10, maybe with a few more listens it will become something I truly like.

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  4. Zack February 11, 2015 / 9:24 pm

    Btw Josh and/or Derek, I know it may not technically be a “country” album, but will you guys be reviewing Blackberry Smoke’s “Holding All The Roses”?

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    • Josh Schott February 11, 2015 / 10:02 pm

      I’m not sure yet. We will have to discuss it.

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    • Derek Hudgin February 12, 2015 / 2:11 pm

      I think we’re gonna put that one on hold for now. Josh raised the good point that there’s a lot of country music on the docket and I’d argue the album is way too rock to reasonably pigeon hole it in right now. If reviews slow down I think we’ll do a delayed review on it.

      But if you want my quick thoughts, I think it’s a fantastic album. Really unique, well done productions on some of the songs, great writing, and Charlie Starr’s vocals have never been better. There’s a few songs that stick with simplistic melodies, but that doesn’t make them bad. If you like Southern Rock, or even Rock music in general, then it’s a great album to add to your collection. It would get a high rating no doubt.

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