A Royal Battle
4.5 out of 5 stars
It’s fairly astonishing that A Royal Battle is Strange Americans’ debut album. The disc comes across as an effort by a group that is far beyond their only two years together as a band.
While there is a questionably placed 20 seconds of background noise before drummer Scott Gunshore clicks his sticks and really starts the album, A Royal Battle kicks off with a bang of a barroom rock track, “Roses On Ice.” Lead vocalist Matt Hoffman’s voice sounds like he’s sucked down a couple too many filterless Camels, and a shot or ten of whiskey, which fits perfectly with the slight twang of the melody; and it fits equally as well on the following, somewhat more poppy track, “Cavalier Home.” But when the Denver quintet hit their third song, “Alamosa,” the heavy reverb and fuzzed out guitars couple with the soaring pedal steel sound like a white-hot mix of Drive-By Truckers and Crazy Horse. (That ‘soaring pedal steel’ is the work of Grammy winner and Silo Sound Studios owner John Macy, who recorded, engineered and mixed the album.)
The rest of A Royal Battle continues on, gracefully straddling a rickety picket fence of 1970s FM rock on one side and outlaw country on the other, teetering back and forth just enough to keep it consistently fresh and interesting. It’s truly a wonderful album for such a young group. — BFJ