You think Ray LaMontagne has changed up his sound? That’s nothing compared to what Joe Gallant has done with his new record, The Rise and the Fall. Dude’s gone from Jack Johnson to Jimmie Johnson, trading in hushed singer-songwriter fare for big country tunes suitable for the infield at Daytona.
Did you see that coming?
With a new backing band — the Transit — as well as time with Jonathan Wyman in the studio and Adam Ayan’s mastering touch (Ayan’s carved out a niche with pop country artists like Rascal Flatts, Hunter Hayes, and Carrie Underwood, if you haven’t noticed), Gallant has re-imagined himself as country-rock bandleader, with an opening track in “Bandages and Whiskey” that’s full of thumping bass drum from Dan Capaldi (Sea Level, Soft Bullets, etc.), searing electric guitar from Sam Berce, and some organ, for good measure, from Karl Anderson (the Wrecking).
And, just in case you weren’t clear what Gallant was going for, he made sure to throw in lyrics about meeting the reaper, “a fire burning in the midnight sky,” and being in both Tulsa and “Arizone.”
Oh, and the next tune is “Nashville Soon.” Country! Nothing wrong with engaging in genre, you just need to really nail it. Here, the combo package of piano, slide guitar, and backing vocals from Amy Allen (who’s done some recording in Nashville, herself) ought to be well received. You’ll be reminded just how sweet Gallant can sing, too, even as you catch a nice Dolly Parton reference about sleeping with one eye open.
“Sweet Rebellion” is also kinda purty, this time with Will Mallett doing the backing vocals, as Gallant explores country’s outlaw roots: “It’s hard to follow the beaten path when you’re staring at the sky.” There’s even a train song, “Locomotive,” that apes ZZ Top and gets sexually suggestive. If you’re geeked up about the line-up on the waterfront in Bangor this summer, this tune’s for you.
Finally, there is “Love Ain’t So Bad,” the big sing-along finisher. The honky tonks on Broadway in Nashville are filled with this kind of thing, perfect for late nights and raised bottles of beer.
Maybe this isn’t so much of a departure for Gallant after all. His last album was designed for boozy campfires at the beach. On this one, the sentiment’s the same. The only thing that’s changed is the setting.
THE RISE AND THE FALL | released by Joe Gallant and the Transit | with Jake Hill and Deep Creek | at Empire, in Portland | June 7 | joegallant band.com