Thursday, July 6, 2023

The Waymores: “Greener Pastures” (2023) CD Review

We’re all looking for greener pastures, I suppose, and The Waymores are here to provide them on their new album. The Waymores are led by the duo of Willie Heath Neal on vocals and guitar and Kira Annalise on vocals.  Greener Pastures, their third album, following last year’s Stone Sessions, features a mix of covers and original material. In addition to Willie Heath Neal and Kira Annalise, this release features Dave Pearlman on steel guitar, Johnny Lee Schell on lead guitar, James Hutchinson on bass, Terry Wilson on bass, Phil Parlapiano on piano, and Tony Braunagel on drums, with Maxayn Lewis providing backing vocals on a couple of tracks.

The album opens with a cover of Buck Owens’ “Under Your Spell Again,” featuring some wonderful work on pedal steel. These guys do a great job with this song, delivering it as a duet. Oh yes, the joy of being under someone’s spell is clear in their delivery. May we all experience that. “You’ve got me dreaming those dreams again/Thinking those things again.” In addition to pedal steel and their great vocal work, this track features some nice work on piano. Terry Wilson plays bass on this track. In “Under Your Spell Again,” there is the line “Well, everybody tells me that I’m a fool.” So it seems fitting that that song is followed by one titled “Flashbacks Of A Fool,” which begins with them singing, “I’m a fool, I’m a fool, I’m a fool, I’m a fool.” This is an original number, and it’s a fun one, and includes some hand claps. Again, there is a joy in being a fool, isn’t there? “But it’s hard to close a door/That you keep swinging back and forth/Coming and you’re going and running around/Well, I have found that/All the memories of you/Are the flashbacks of a fool.”

It’s still kind of unbelievable that John Prine is gone. But I am glad he left us with so many excellent songs, including “You Got Gold,” which The Waymores cover here. Willie Heath Neal takes lead vocal duties at the beginning of this one, and it is delivered as a duet. This is a song that John Prine included on his The Missing Years album, which was released in 1991 and is one of my favorites. The Waymores give us a sweet rendition, raising my spirits. “You got gold/Gold inside of you/Ah, but I got some/Gold inside me too.” And toward the end they sing, “Ah, but we got gold/And the gold inside is true.” The Waymores have also covered John Prine’s “In Spite Of Ourselves.” “You Got Gold” is followed by “Time To Ramble,” a seriously delicious country number about being ready to roam. It is an original composition. “Time to roam, time to ramble/I’ve had all that I can handle.” Sure, it’s about a troubled relationship, but even if you’re not in such a relationship, the appeal of rambling is high, and so the appeal of this song. There is even a brief spoken word section in the middle, and there is more great work on pedal steel guitar.

Then we get the album’s title track, “Greener Pastures.” This one too is about roaming, but here it’s not a matter of one person leaving the other, for at the beginning they sing, “Let’s go find ourselves in a greener pasture/You and me in a greener pasture.” Amen to that. Why is it that leaving is always so appealing? Do we all have wanderlust, or is it that no place has quite all we desire? Kira Annalise sings, “Well, I will go if you go with me/When I leave this place, no one will miss me.” There are times when I love Los Angeles, sure, but I am often eager to get the hell out of town. So I love these lines: “This old town is a disaster/Let’s go find greener pastures.” This is a fun tune, written by Willie Heath Neal, Kira Annalise and Johnny McGowan. That’s followed by a really nice cover of Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry.” The steel guitar plays a prominent part on this track, and is a big part of its appeal. This track also features some wonderful blending of voices. Plus, there is some good work on piano.

One of the album’s best tracks is “But I Don’t.” Its first line, “If you had a heart, this song would break it,” caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud the first time I listened to this disc, as did the one that follows it, “But you don’t, so I pretend, I pretend we’ll make it.” This duet has something of a John Prine vibe, and I just love it more and more each time I listen to it. “Half of a heart don’t make much of a song.” That’s followed by “Hill Country Waltz,” a pretty number written by Johnny McGowan. “Laughing and dancing with someone new/To our favorite song like we used to do/Now I’m crying again/To the Hill Country Waltz/My sweetheart is gone/And everything’s lost.” I love the sadness in Kira Annalise’s delivery. She gives an excellent vocal performance. Then “She’s Gone” comes racing in, with a bit of a rock and roll vibe. This is another fun track, and I love that work on piano. “You can’t always choose the road you’re on.” Indeed. These guys then encourage us, “Somehow hold on.” The album wraps up with “Tavern Time.” Ah, it is always tavern time, isn’t it? And this song is as welcoming as your favorite local pub. “My gal split last Sunday/I’ve been blasted since past Monday.” Yeah, there is a certain humor to this one, especially heard in the line “Where the beer flows like wine.”

CD Track List

  1. Under Your Spell Again
  2. Flashbacks Of A Fool
  3. You Got Gold
  4. Time To Ramble
  5. Greener Pastures
  6. Don’t Worry
  7. But I Don’t
  8. Hill Country Waltz
  9. She’s Gone
  10. Tavern Time

Greener Pastures is scheduled to be released on August 25, 2023 on Chicken Ranch Records, and it is going to be available on vinyl as well as CD.

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