Girls Guns & Glory have got their country flavored rock and roll down pat. The 12 songs on their latest Love And Protest album indicate the ease with which they can travel in two lanes, rock and country, at once. Love And Protest displays a rock and roll attitude, aggression, and structure while offering a huge variety of real purty country music idioms.
Opening track “Rock ‘n’ Roll” is an arcing, sprawling beauty. Lead vocalist Ward Hayden has an amazing range and a perfect timbre for these country flavored dandies. His voice rings out with a home-on-the-range quality that makes the song work, especially on its chorus. His flinty rhythm guitar and the rhythm section’s punchy work make it a very winsome number.
“Wine Went Bad(But I’m Still Drinking)” comes across with the emotions as well as the lyrics of a personal tale of loss. Hayden’s plaintive vocal makes it a gripping piece. He’s talking like a man who is coming apart at the seams and trying to put himself back together again, and it rings true with an air of authenticity.
“Who Will Love You” combines a pretty acoustic guitar strum with a flinty electric guitar playfulness in this tight little ditty. Across that weave of strum and series of electric ringing notes comes the chirpy, emotive vocal of Ward Hayden. His earnest, sincere voice glides over the homey sonic landscape with an appeal as wide and winning as the lead guitar line that expands and catches on fire beneath him.
“Reno, NV” takes things down tempo so the band can make their mark more personally and more visibly. Hayden sings it as purty as he usually does. The Girls Guns & Glory rhythm section of drummer Josh Kiggans and bass player Paul Dilley display a tasteful self-restraint. The drum work has a take your time but palpable presence while the low end travels smoothly beneath an amicable but perky guitar line.
“Well Laid Plans” is another easeful, mellow country tune. Hayden’s vocal carries it well with his purity of timbre and tone. His down home quality is emphatic by singing in an understated manner. This lets his perfect country timbre stand out while a gritty electric guitar pushes it along with its lower, punchier notes. This one sounds out a touch of yesteryear as it reminds of all of the old country ballads.
Chugging down the tracks with an assertive gait is “Diamondillium.” It features a more echoing electric guitar twang. Hayden sounds more pensive as his lyrics drip with a hipster’s modern take on philosophy. That electric guitar riff gets its own moment in the spotlight and it’s a gloriously purty sound, flinty and ringing, notes that are perfectly accented with a perfect tone. The rhythm section push it along with a mild shuffle groove, enough oomph to keep this song full of emphasis without mugging the listener.
“Memories Don’t Die” is a mid-tempo cruise through a sonic landscape of flinty, ringing guitar work, smacking drum beats, and a pushy groove. Hayden’s vocal presence is especially strong here, chirping over a bristling weave of lead and rhythm electric guitar pluck. A lead guitar line raises its head with a raw, flinty edge while another fills out the soundscape with its forceful presence. The Girls Guns & Glory rhythm section too is in strong form here, spanking out a chugging groove.
“Hot Burrito #1” is another down tempo charmer. More of a couple slow dance number than a ballad, this one takes its time building the romantic drama. Hayden provides plenty of emotive force as the lyrics unfurl. Yet, it’s the way the electric guitar spoons out the most tender line this side of the Mississippi that will make couples fall in love all over again.
“Stare At The Darkness” jumps out of the gate with a hoofing beat, a bucking groove, and a restless guitar line. Hayden steers its all forward with a leadership edge in his brisk vocal clip. Things get very real when a lead guitar line burns its way into the listener’s consciousness.
“Empty Bottles” has the vibe of the old cowboy campfire songs from the 1930s, the kind you might hear from Stonewall Jackson and Herb Jeffries. Hayden’s chirp is more pronounced in this campfire setting. He’s beautifully pure, straight up, and the bumps of groove from the rhythm section power it all well. The chorus and a pedal steel guitar are further bright spots on this old fashioned dandy.
“Man Wasn’t Made” Is a bad ass rocker. Its speedy shuffle groove carries rippling electric guitar lines while Hayden croons without mercy above. He relentlessly keeps pace with the music, singing out a breakneck pace. The listener can feel this number taking him somewhere faster than he can decide if he wants to go there. The song craft and energy here make this one something to get caught up in.
The boys close out with “Unglued.” This mellow tune, complete with country trappings like a mournful vocal, a moody low end, and a forlorn electric guitar, finds Hayden emoting sadness, and he does it so well. This singer applies his world weary emotions and his heavy, steadfast delivery to hit the listener’s soft spot. He makes us feel what his song is all about while the music around his voice conjures all sorts of moping possibilities.
Guest musicians on this album include Duke Levine, Cody Nilsen, Buddy Cage, Dave Lamina, Abby Barrett, Jason Anick, and Michael Bean. Those familiar with those players might have an idea how good this album is going to sound when they finally get it on their stereo. Girls Guns & Glory have certainly got their sound down pat. Having recorded this album at Zippah Recording Studio in Brighton, Massachusetts, with Drew Townsend turning the knobs, they show they can ride the range until they cover everything from vintage country grit, down tempo country heartbreak, and galloping country fun. The band’s adherence to old school influences make them a winner on every track. This album is just dripping with and a country and western authenticity within its modern adaptation.