Jason Didner's new CD is loaded with heartland rock plus a few modern touches, but the title cut is by itself worth the price of admission. A road anthem with a great catchy chorus, it could certainly be a radio hit with clearer production.
Some of Didner's melodies and guitar sounds are throwbacks to the 70s and early 80s, with the bad and the good that that implies: think Bon Jovi, but also think "Radar Love." Yet unlike most of the classic artists he evokes, Didner is essentially a solo act. Except for a few guests, he wrote all the songs, plays all the instruments and produced the album. Like many such "homemade" one-man efforts, it sounds lo-fi and uses a drum machine, but because of the primarily acoustic sensibility it doesn't suffer too much from those limitations.
"Building Up / Wall of Sound," an incisive tale of a lonely musician, boasts a fine pseudo-orchestral intro in true classic-rock style, and proves to be the CD's second highlight:
The wind and rain are blowing all around
But they won't reach me through my wall of sound
Unfortunately, the drawling reggae and humorous lyrics of "Instant Love" aren't 100% convincing in spite of the catchy chorus and sharp guitar solo. But the lovely "My Gentle Warrior" carries a lilting melody reminiscent of Elvis Costello, while "Glass Half Full" is a sweet, pastoral love song, irresistible to the ear in spite of a few cliched lyrics. "I'm Not the Wind Beneath Your Wings" is a good-natured declaration of independence that kicks the album back into high gear.
The 9/11 tribute "Stand Tall United" is too earnest for my taste, but the second half of the CD is elevated by "Will You Be My Brother?" a groovy ska collaboration with an artist called Europica.
Though Didner's closed-throated voice conveys his passion, his technical limitations are noticeable, particularly on some of the CD's quieter moments, or when set against the heavy metal crunch of "Enemy of My Enemy." A fine musical sensibility is evident through much of this album; if Didner found a way to tap his voice's full potential, his well-written and winning songs would sound that much better. Available at CD Baby here.