Album Review — Michaela Anne’s ‘Desert Dove’

Michaela Anne is an artist I’ve always seen a lot of promise in, but she had to yet fully show it for an entire album. Well that changes on her newest album Desert Dove, as she’s seemed to find the sound that suits her best. Opening track “By Our Design” features some gorgeous and sweeping strings that gives the song a relaxing, yet cinematic feel. It sets the tone for the album, as the sound on this album wavers between cinematic and 90s country, back when the genre never forgot to include a good melody. This album has good melody in spades, a credit to the great work of producers Sam Outlaw and Kelly Winrich. Most importantly it fits Anne’s voice and style to a T.

“One Heart” is about falling too fast and too hard for someone. But yet the one falling so hard doesn’t care as the one being fallen for says they’re moving too fast. I particularly enjoy how the song starts out slow and soft, but then picks up in intensity as the two protagonists of the song question the other’s passion in the relationship. The lyrics and melody match each other and each help tell the story equally. “I’m Not the Fire” feels like it was plucked right from the impressive catalog of breezy 90s country love songs that you heard on the radio. The lyrics are clever with it’s flame metaphors and they’re easy to pick up too. It’s such a playful and fun love song, there’s no good reason why this shouldn’t be a hit. But the radio has given up on quality music.

“Child of the Wind” sees Anne recalling her childhood of having to move from town to town, never settling long enough to never be more than a temporary friend. But rather than look at this negatively, Anne embraces this lifestyle that goes and comes with the wind. Again the lyrics and sound make you feel what the song is about. This song makes you feel like you’re in the backseat of that car with Anne traveling on the highway looking up at the sky. That’s when you know you’re listening to a damn good song. “Tattered, Torn and Blue (And Crazy)” is a southwestern flavored song about always ending up alone with a broken heart, never feeling like you can love and trust someone. It’s an achingly great heartbreak song.

The album’s title track is about examining the relationship of a “lady of the night” and the cowboy she’s with, wondering how they truly feel about each other. The song attempts to view the complexity of each other’s emotions towards each other in this relationship, wondering how lonely each feel. I feel Anne does a pretty good job looking beyond the obvious in the situation and exploring the nuance of what each person truly wants in the situation.

“Run Away with Me” feels like a long lost Shania Twain or LeAnn Rimes song. Again it’s the soft breeziness and accessibility of the lyrics that make this song so easy to fall in love with like many others on this album. Perhaps it’s this song’s West Coast feel (and really the album as a whole) that lends to what makes it so infectious, as West Coast country feels like it gets drowned out by Nashville and Texas. “Two Fools” is that classic country love ballad about two people falling in love who don’t want to admit it. Anne really hits the high notes in this well, showcasing the wanting and resisting emotions of the two lovers in the song. I hate making yet another 90s country comparison, but Anne really sounds like Alison Krauss on this song and that’s a great thing of course.

“If I Wanted Your Opinion” is about a woman standing up for herself against a man who doesn’t want to see her for her, but rather a “porcelain doll.” I really enjoy the message and the way Anne delivers it, but it doesn’t feel like it fits the rest of the album’s theme. It feels like it was forced into the album and it would have been better off as a standalone single.

“Somebody New” is about a woman feeling guilty for falling in love with someone else and breaking her current-now-former man’s heart. Now this song I have to applaud for all of the little details Anne writes, like how the song opens with “I’m drinking day old coffee and watching the clouds roll in.” That’s an excellent detail and perfectly puts you in the mindset of a guilty and sad person. This song is also appealingly smooth, making it another song I would call yacht country.

“Be Easy” closes out the album and is a stripped-down song about trying to quiet your mind and find peace. It was a great call by Anne to make this track acoustic and let the raw emotion of the lyrics do the heavy lifting. This is a song for those who beat themselves up too much and it’s also an appropriate closer to an album that compares various characters and ends up back at Anne looking into herself.

Michaela Anne delivers an amazing album in Desert Dove. It’s full of smooth and breezy songs that only take a couple of listens to truly enjoy. This feels like Anne’s breakout moment, as she finds the sound and themes she needed to truly show her full potential and prove herself as an artist that should be on your radar if you love country music.

Grade: 9/10

Album Review — Mike and the Moonpies’ ‘Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold’

I’m going to be quite blunt with you because the context is important: I was not a fan of any of Mike and the Moonpies’ albums up to this point. On paper this is a band that should appeal to me, but every time I listened to one of their previous two albums I would listen to it a few times and then have zero desire to go back and listen to it again. Their music lacked something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But on their newest album Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold, the band finds that something because this is an album I’ve had on repeat since it’s surprise release.

Opening track “Cheap Silver” right away showcases the new sound of Mike and the Moonpies, as they went to Abbey Road Studios in London, England and recorded this album with the London Symphony Orchestra. Talk about a curve ball from a country band, especially from Texas. And man does it work. It’s silky smooth sound put to the lyrics that put you in mind of a dim lit, smoky bar are a perfect pair. As a fan of yacht rock, I’ve always wondered what yacht country would sound like and I think this is it. I love it and I want more!

“You Look Good in Neon” keeps the album sailing in the yacht country direction. It’s a song about a one-night love on the dance floor, where alcohol and neon lights make a man fall for a woman that if he was sober and in regular lights he wouldn’t even tell his friends about. It’s a great song, as all the little details do a great job of painting the scene in your head and I particularly like the wordplay and delivery of the line “This is your last chance/To prove me right and do me wrong.”

“Danger” is not only my favorite track on the album, but perhaps the best song the band has ever recorded. I really enjoy the storytelling in this song, as a father tells his son of his life and passes down the lessons he’s learned to help his son. There’s some great messages in it too about never giving up and fighting for something more. Most importantly it feels like it comes from a place of genuineness and sincerity and I can immediately feel this when listening to it. You can’t really fake a song like this one and get away with it.

“Young in Love” is one of the classiest sounding country songs I’ve heard in recent memory. I don’t know about you, but when I hear this song I picture a well-dressed crooner on a stage in a packed ballroom full of couples in formal wear slow dancing. That’s how classy this song feels to me. “Miss Fortune” features more fantastically smooth sounds from the band, as that 70s, Laurel Canyon sound really shines through. I really hope this sound is something the band doesn’t lose going forward because they pull it off so well.

“If You Want a Fool Around” is another excellently written song about a man reaching out to the woman he foolishly broke up with and he never got over, who has moved on and fell in love with someone else. The biggest strength of this song is of course the chorus, which is the double meaning of “if you want a fool around.” It refers both to himself, the fool who left her, and it’s also inviting her to cheat with him, despite her being happy and in love, which also makes him a fool. It’s brilliant and clever songwriting.

“Fast as Lightning” is a fun driving song that best showcases the usual sound of Mike and the Moonpies and the London Symphony Orchestra. After the moments of hard-hitting songwriting on this album, I enjoy lighter, breezier tracks like this one to mix it up. The final track “London Homesick Blues” is a fitting conclusion to the album, as the band does a great job covering this excellent Gary P. Nunn song. You can’t really go wrong with a song from him and this fits the overarching theme of the album perfectly.

Mike and the Moonpies deliver something special with Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold. It’s fantastic in both sound and songwriting. The group clearly left their comfort zone. It honors the tried and true, while delivering something that feels new too. This is a band for me that went from releasing two albums I couldn’t get into at all to releasing an album that I can’t find a single fault in. If you haven’t done so yet, go listen to this album.

Grade: 10/10