CD Review: Heartless Bastards — Arrow; Playing The EARL, March 2

Heartless Bastards
Partisan Records

By Al Kaufman

Heartless Bastards answer the all important question: What if Adele was backed by a Texas band? Erika Wennerstrom, the vocal storm behind the band, has penned 11 songs that show off all her abilities. The soulful “Marathon” is followed by the poppy “Parted Ways,” until the song takes a turn and Wennerstrom demonstrates a  passionate growl worthy of Patti Smith,  accompanied by a drum and guitar frenzy.

The band dabbles in psychedelic rock, and Wennestrom does her best Grace Slick impression, on “Simple Feeling,” which concludes with a raucous and trippy instrumental. She gets PJ Harvey-ish on the spooky “The Arrow Killed the Beast,” which ends with rolling guitars in a Crazy Horse vein. “Late in the Night” is straight ahead Texas rock, while “Low Low Low” is more of a campfire ballad with sweet guitars. Then it all ends with “Down in the Canyon,” a song that opens with Black Sabbath riffs before it transcends into a wide open wild west number with big guitars.

Arrow has a few numbers that rely a bit too much on Wennerstrom’s pipes. There is nothing on here that is particularly memorable, but everything is solid. Wennestrom can sing, and the boys behind her can play (new guitarist Mark Nathan is a welcome addition), but their material is still not quite up to their talents. It’s difficult to explain why. The vocals are extraordinary, and the guitars, drums, and bass all wail at the appropriate moments, but when it’s all put together, the whole does not quite equal the sum of its parts. Here’s betting the equation will improve with each subsequent Heartless Bastards release.

Heartless Bastards play The EARL on March 2.


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