Heartless Bastards – Restless Ones

Released in 2015, Restless Ones marks the first time the Heartless Bastards have had the same lineup for two albums in a row since All This Time
in 2006, and the bandmembers certainly sound more comfortable and at
ease with themselves than they have in a while. Lead singer, songwriter,
and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom
still sings like a powerhouse as she muses about making sense of life’s
rare peaks and many valleys, but this time she sounds more in sync with
her bandmates — Mark Nathan on guitar, Jesse Ebaugh on bass, and David Colvin on drums — and this music has a raw immediacy the Bastards
haven’t matched since their first two albums. The sharp, jittery slide
work on “Wind Up Bird” suggests the damaged blues fury of the Gun Club,
“Black Cloud” has the decisive snap of vintage R&B, and “Into the
Light” is that rarity, a widescreen power ballad that actually has the
heart, soul, and riffs to not sound embarrassing in the 21st century.
And while the band sounds tight and on point throughout, Restless Ones
captures the interplay of four musicians who simply set up in the
studio and let it rip; the guitars growl with conviction, the report of
the bass is deep and satisfying, and the drumming is solid while leaving
just enough room to color the arrangements. (In fact, the band sounds
good enough that producer John Congleton often favors them over Wennerstrom
in the mix, one of the album’s few sonic flaws.) While the extended,
effects-laden closer “Tristessa” suggests psychedelia isn’t the Bastards‘ strong suit, the rest of Restless Ones strikes a graceful balance between the ragged but strikingly honest sound of the Heartless Bastards‘ early work and the most polished attack of The Mountain and Arrow;
these songs capture an outstanding band hitting its stride, and growing
more comfortable with the craft of record-making along with singing and
playing great, passionate music.

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