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Music Review: Reluctant Saints – Long Drive

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Take a couple of guitars, add a bass, piano, and some drums; combine them with five vocalists who can also meld their voices into tight harmonies, and you have the Reluctant Saints.

The Wilson Brothers, bassist Mark and guitarist Brian Cameron decided to play together after a number of years apart. They recruited guitarist Nathan Morgan, pianist Jon Cole, and drummer Gary Chumney and the Reluctant Saints were born.  The band has been together close to four years and Long Drive is their debut release. They can probably be classified as a southern rock band, although they have a polish that almost moves them out of that style.

They have a lot of strengths to build upon. They write most of their own material, which are sophisticated, structured, and melodic. They can also sing, and I mean really sing. They rotate lead vocals duties and the harmonies are precise and tight.

The music keys off the guitar interplay, as it forms the foundation upon which to build their music. The piano runs fill in the sound. There are a couple of exceptions such as the gentle piano ballad “Down In Nowhere.”

Sometimes it all comes down to pacing, and they explode out of the gate with three up-tempo rock numbers that accentuate their harmonies and melodic strengths. “Blue Ridge Baby,” “Shine On Me,” and the title song are all toe-tapping slices of slick southern rock. “Long Drive” is enhanced by singer Shana Alverson, who brings another superior voice to the mix.

The pace slows a bit with ballads such as “Down Is Nowhere” and “I’ll Miss You When I’m Broke,” but “Song To Remember” is a nice original blues tune with a soulful vocal by Morgan and some slide guitar by B.C. Wilson.

The packaging is excellent, and the sound avoids the pitfalls of many independent releases by providing good clarity and a mix that allows each instrument to stand out rather than being mushed together. My only complaint is the lack of liner notes. If you are going to have slick packaging, you might as well include some notes about the band, plus having the lyrics in print would also have been nice.

Reluctant Saints are a group that understands itself. Long Drive builds upon their considerable strong points. I listen to a lot of Indy releases but this one moves to the head of the pack so far this year. Hopefully they will build upon this strong debut album as their career moves forward.

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