Dirty Guv'nahs - 3000 Miles
This is a mid-tempo rock anthem that I'm not completely sold on after a couple of listens. It sounds a little like the band might be edging towards Kings of Leon-type arena rock. That gives me concern since, well, that whole thing didn't turn out well for KOL, at least as far as their image and my enjoyment of their music goes. I've heard the Dirty Guv'nahs forthcoming album is supposed to be really strong so I'm holding out hope for a little southern rock goodness coming down the pipe. "3000 Miles" is decent, but I hope it's not indicative of the band's direction.
The Avett Brothers - Live and Die
This sounds like a continuation of where the band was headed with their last album, I and Love and You. That move toward more pop melody and less intricate strings didn't bother me so much, though I certainly prefer the livelier madness of earlier tracks like "Die Die Die." "Live and Die" is well-played though, and very catchy. It has a warmth that tells me the band is moving in a natural direction, not guided by commerce.
Ryan Bingham - Heart of Rhythm
I know a lot of people love this guy, and honestly, I loved Mescalito, but nothing since has lasted me past 5 or 10 plays. "Heart of Rhythm" is a heartland rocker that's way more Mellencamp than Texas troubadour, but it works for Ryan as he's always been more of a rocker. This tune is pretty sneaky. I didn't like it at first, but in the course of listening to it for this review, it has crept into my mind and changed my opinion completely. It seems tossed together and haphazard, but that's part of its charm and the hook is simple but contagious. I had nearly written Bingham off, but "Heart of Rhythm" has me at least mildly interested in what's to come.
Ponderosa - Navajo
This week's iTunes free single from a band whose 2011 album, Moonlight Revival, finished in my top 10 of the year is an utter let-down. Way too much production, not enough song quality. I described them as the Black Crowes by way of Muscle Shoals with a lead singer whose vocals were "stirring." So what'd they do? Bury that superb voice in reverb and take every ounce of southern rocking out of their sound. Yep, Ponderosa is now an indie rock band, apparently. I'm not saying this is a horrible song - it's growing on me. I'm saying this isn't what I expected or wanted from these guys. I'm not one of those fans who cries sell-out about bands who change their sound….slowly. Ponderosa has made such a violent shift in sound that it's artistically jarring and doesn't feel honest. At least they didn't go towards a more commercial sound, I suppose. I may come around on this tune and Ponderosa's genre jump, but for now, I'm not happy.