Take away Robby Schiller's unique sad-sack vocals, and "Desperate" by Blueheels from the group's forthcoming release Lessons in Sunday Driving could be another cut off a George Strait album. The waltz time, the bittersweet pedal steel filigree, the steady rise in volume and dynamics that occurs about four-fifths of the way through the tune -- they're all markers of pure country.
Everything's well played and well thought out, but nothing in this instrumental backdrop is markedly different from the work of other alt-country acts that have digested their share of old-school Nashville fare. Then Schiller comes in.
That nasally Midwestern voice of his is about as distinctive an instrument as you're likely to hear, and when he uses it to moan "It's two in the morning/and I am just driving around," you recall exactly how that sort of aimless cruise through an empty landscape feels. Given the demise of No Depression, making this kind of arid, existential country the esthetic center of an album probably wouldn't be the most remunerative career move.
And yet "Desperate" cuts deeper than most of the harder country-rock and amped up barroom blues that appear on Lessons in Sunday Driving. Fact is, the way that Schiller's voice plays off the Blueheels' trad arrangement raises gooseflesh, and for me at least, that's a sign of something special in any genre.
An MP3 of the track are available in the related downloads at right. Blueheels host the third in a trio of statewide CD release parties for Lessons in Sunday Driving at the Majestic Theatre on Saturday, April 26. The group will be performing with The Championship, Record Low, and Patchwork, with the first 50 people at the show receiving a free copy of the new album.
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