Originally formed in the year 2000, country-rock outfit Wagon Band has had an exceptionally good run in the Bay Area. Currently comprised of Charlie Galletta (vocals), Steve Hall (rhythm guitar), Lowell Hall (lead guitar), and Steve Hall Sr. (bass), the group has a current total of seven original album releases under their belt. In 2015 the group planned to cap their catalog with what was planned to be a final release, an album titled The End. This year, however, Wagon Band reunited for one final release, a full-length album titled Twenty.
HERE’S WHAT WE DUG MOST…
The opening track Carry Us Through is both a great introduction to the band’s sound as well as a strong opening message – here we get the details of why Wagon Band decided to reunite. A tumultuous year without music and perhaps a touch of nostalgia for the band’s heyday relit the spark, and they tell us all about it with a soft but insistent beat and classic soft-rock timbre.
We lean in a much more country direction on the following Snowy Owl. This is the first of a three-part song series written by Steve Hall (Alongside Weasel River and Baffin Island, they each were included in an award-winning documentary titled “Baffin Island: An Arctic Adventure” – and Snowy Owl won Best Song at the Vegas Movie Awards). With a heavy focus on accordion and banjo in the production, this light and twangy number depicts a stunning scene of a snowy owl flying over the Owl River.
Dreamy and reverent, At A Loss For Words has a deeply pensive energy. A song about handling life’s inevitable tragedies, the open, anthemic arrangement serves to further sell the message of optimism hidden between the song’s more melancholy moments.
There’s plenty of bright lyrical moments all across this record, but in a few songs, we find some hidden and brilliant gems. Misty Haze gives us one such moment. An energetic track with some modern rock undertones, the first line paints the picture of an attention-grabbing scene:
“Give me a night sky with valley torches so I can see which way to ride
Beneath the stars I would see the pathway. It’s shining through like ruby red.“
And in that same vein, there is also excellent guitar work across this record as well – but the guitar solo at just after the two-minute mark in this track is jaw-dropping and arguably the best on the record.
The album’s title track Twenty introduces itself with a catchy guitar riff, and from then on is full of surprises. Written about the 20 mule teams of Death Valley that transported borax in the late 1800s, this unique story is told to us with a true pop-rock timbre. The juxtaposition between the old storyline and the new, modern production makes for an engaging and distinctive listening experience.
We also love the album’s closing track If I’m Not Here for showing us a vulnerable side of the band. Steve wrote this song for his son after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and while he is currently cancer-free, the emotions and struggles present in that moment in his life are on clear and thoughtful display here. There’s no doubt that sadness and longing are the predominant themes in this heartfelt piece, but it is a beautiful tribute to his son’s future and carries glimmers of hope and peace despite the circumstances. A genuinely moving work.
OUR FAVORITE TRACK…
The album’s leading single Left In The Cold is a showing of the band’s most energetic side, their peak performance skills, and tied together by smart, relatable songwriting. Catchy guitar riffs, an expressive guitar solo, and a memorable hook – it’s pure rock music and it’s executed at a very high level, truly checking off all the boxes and then some. The story of wondering if a relationship is becoming something more is a familiar one, but the band’s particular take on it is fresh, characterized by the high-energy guessing game depicted by the lyrics, a game of “Will They or Won’t They?” for the ages:
“You speak in riddles, your words confound
My emotions can’t be your playground
You can’t seem to express how you feel
It’s left me spinning my wheels“
Even without an introduction, the twenty years of chemistry in Wagon Band are immediately apparent on this final album. Clear musicianship and storytelling songwriting are at the foundation of this record, but their ability and desire to work outside genre constraints, blending multiple eras of pop, rock, and country sounds into one cohesive collection of songs is what sets this project above the rest. Twenty most certainly is a commendable and truly listen-worthy project that would definitely serve as a suitable conclusion to this band’s impressive career – but the band has made mention that maybe this is just the end for now, and we most certainly would be thrilled to find more of this extraordinary brand of blended country-rock on the airwaves down the road.
BELOW: Check out our full artist interview with Wagon Band, listen to Twenty, and connect with their website and social media platforms and watch their music video. Please support Wagon Band by visiting them online, and playing, downloading, and/or purchasing their music, or attending a live show! And, as always, thank you for supporting real music!
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