Sound — 8
Modern country meets acoustic rock on Love And Theft's new album World Wide Open from Carolwood Records. Produced by Jeff Coplan and Robert Ellis Orrall who each play a variety of instruments on the recording that include the Hammond B3 organ, the dobro and the mandolin, World Wide Open showcases the trio of lead singer Stephen Barker Lilies with Eric Gunderson on guitar and bass and Brian Bandas on guitar and piano. Their songs are a culmination of Lady Antebellum's infectious riffage with The Dixie Chicks cool country swagger and the smooth timing of Little Big Town's harmonizing. The trio's album ranges from the delicate lilts of the title track to the racy rhythmic scuffles and wind-whipping guitaristry of Runaway. The trio demonstrate the country rock chops of Cross Canadian Ragweed with the melodic motionism of Chris Daughtry like in Can't Go Back as the bluegrass tones of the swerving fiddle are looped in a succession of hearty rock stomping. The sunny ruffles of the mandolin threads tooling Dancing In Circles are wreath by the waltzing strokes of the rhythm section while the guitar-driven melody of It's Up To You is propelled by the uplifting hydraulics of the trio's vocal harmonies. The pensive ambience of You To Miss is garbed in wispy acoustics, which give way to the upbeat chugging of the rhythmic movements through Don't Wake Me and Freedom. The country-pop ballads of Slow Down and Me Without You are haloed by breezy strings that shift into the cruising momentum of Drowning which is molded by lounging piano rolls and tenderly lit acoustics. The album has an easy listening feel tempered for long drives across country or to be alone with one's thoughts.
Lyrics — 8
The lyrics lean towards expressing life and relationships in the form of metaphors like in Me Without You when Liles describes, Like a thunder cloud without a chance of rain / Like a stretch of sandy beach without the waves / It's like I'm spinning my wheels down a lonely interstate / Me without you. The analogies are poetic and can resonate with regular people like in Freedom as Liles reflects, I got nowhere to go and no one to see / The birds out my window are singing to me / And I know their song / So I hum along out of key / And this place sure feels haunted / I guess I got what I wanted / Freedom. Other times, the lyrics can be blunt like in Slow Down with verses like, Life, I need to talk to you / Can you spare a minute / Just to tell me what to do / And I am trying to climb this hill / I can feel you pass me by / Like I'm standing still.
Overall Impression — 8
Straddling the line between rawness and refinement, Love And Theft light modern country fuses using an acoustic rock flint. Their album World Wide Open sets them up to become the new boy band of country rock with cloves of bluegrass and coffeehouse folk kneaded into the folds. The album is polished but not too poppy that it renders itself only good for the Disney Radio crowd. If power pop cares to have a country-toned version, Love And Theft would be it.