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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Willard Overstreet and The Highborn Kinsmen

All We Are

Review by Gary Hill

This group is a rock band. They don't try for any big titles beyond that. The thing is, they have quite a bit of range in that sound. They also get pretty artsy at times. This is all exceptionally effective, too. It's just a darned good album without a lot of pretension. The unusual cover of Blondie is worth the price of admission all by itself, but there are no slouches here. Every song pulls its weight.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 6. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
Give it All Away
A DiY singer-songwriter concept is on the menu here. This is a strong rock and roller that works pretty well. There is a punky edge to it, but it's really just good no-frills rock music.
Light
I dig the hard rocking, nearly metal, vibe that serves as the introduction here. The cut works out from there, retaining a lot of that dramatic, metallic angle, but it also brings in more of a classic rock texture and melodic elements. The instrumental introduction on this is extensive, melodic and so strong. As they shift to the vocal section, this has a more melodic and polished approach than the opener did. As strong as that one was, this really ups the stakes.
Devil's Man
A shovel digging serves as percussion for the acapella introduction. Some funky guitar rises up from there. Eventually they power out into another smoking hot classic rock jam. The organ really brings the retro texture to bear, and the whole tune is so classy. It shifts further down the road to a dramatic and classy jam that has an almost prog rock vibe to it. The track keeps shifting and changes as it works onward. This is definitely one of the highlights of the set.
Great Life
Coming in a bit mellower, this is a melodic tune that has parts that are nearly balladic. It's accessible, mainstream and so strong. It brings a different angle to the band's sound and a lot of class. There is a vocal only excursion at the end that essentially makes this the unofficial title track. That part has lots of layers of vocals working together nicely.
Can't Breath (Without You)
This begins rather mellow and stripped back. It becomes essentially a power-ballad in that it grows outward to a powerful arrangement packed with strings and emotion. It's a great example of humble beginnings yielding impressive results.
Heart of Glass
Wow! This is a version of the Blondie song. It's turned into sort of a 1950s styled ballad, though. I've always said that if you are going to cover a song, you need to make it yours. Well, they certainly did that here. This works so well, and the tasty retro, slow moving guitar solo is icing on the cake.
Feel So Good
This starts a bit understated but works out to a soaring sort of dreamy number. It reminds me to some degree of early David Bowie. It's another winner on a disc full of strong material.
Don't Wake Me
With some of that punky edge, both in the music and vocal department, this brings more variety. It's a cool rocker. It's not up to the same level as some of the rest, though. That said, I love the keyboard fills. It also gets into more melodic zones later.
Fool in Love
A pretty mainstream rock and roller, this isn't a highlight, but it works well. It has some solid hooks for sure.
You Move Me
I really dig the hard rocking edge of this screaming hot tune. It has a powerhouse instrumental section and works so well. The melodic movement later brings both a different angle and a lot of magic.
Ballad of a Small Town Girl
This does start as a ballad based around just piano and vocals. It grows outward from there as it continues. This gets more layers of sound further down the road, even brining in some hints of country music in some ways. It's a strong mainstream number that makes a solid closer.

 

 

 
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