CD REVIEW: Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney - The Banner Days
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Bradford Loomis and Beth Whitney
Alternative Folk, Earthy Indie Rock, Americana
When artists Beth Whitney and Bradford Loomis began writing together, they had no idea their casual co-writing experiment would blossom into the much anticipated album The Banner Days (releasing August 23rd on MTS Records). That first night, they wrote “My Beloved” in two hours. And after a few more writing sessions, it was clear to both, that these songs merited a bold decision. Their dramatic crescendos, minimalist intensity, through intricate harmonies have elicited comparisons to The Civil Wars, the Swell Season, and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand. With equal parts sweetly anthemic, pop tinged folk, provided by Beth, and Bradford’s gritty, passionate Americana Roots sound, The Banner Days is an intrepid step for both artists. Credits liclude but not limited to: Beth Whitney - Ukulele, Vocals, Bradford Loomis - Guitar, Vocals, Aaron Fishburn - Upright Bass, Group vocals, Luke Peterson - Drums, Percussion, Group vocals, Jessie Scott – Violin, Brandon Bee - Guitar, Ukulele, Piano, Organ (Wurlitzer, B3), Slide Guitar, Pedal Steel, Banjo, Percussion, Group vocals
The CD gently takes to flight with “My Beloved” a methodical yet impassioned intro piece that serves up methodical intro against well placed folksy fretwork and melodic vocal tandems from Loomis/Whitney. Track 2 “Com Dance With Me” keeps thing grooving with its impressive melody and harmonies, mesmerizing instrumentation and amazing Folk-Pop ambience that peaks and valleys its way through to emotional fruition. Track 3 “The Banner Days” shifts gears with a roc steady ditty that delivers warm and inviting melody, impressive Pedal Steel accents and well executed vocal finale. As this CD slowly unfolds I can hear many different musical soundscapes reminiscent of such classic Feist, Civil Wars, Edie Brickell, Of Monsters and Men, Mazzy Star, and Suzanne Vega. The music itself is an impressive blend of Celtic Folk and Alternative Folk meshed against of alternative indie rock aftertaste. The musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. Besides the 4 piece standard you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive Celtic fretwork, Ukulele, Upright Bass, Violin. Pedal Steel, Slide Guitar, BAnjo, Strings, lush harmonies, Piano, Organ, sporadic percussive elements, painted against an earthy rhythmic section. Turning our attention squarely on Whitney and Loomis - they fit together like a hand in glove. Both take many vocal risks throughout the CD indicating to me a song and confident musical ability. Above all both are in prefect musical harmony with the other in a deep way. Whitney possesses a unique and infectious vocal persona that is both mystifying and infectious. Her vocal style reminds me of a cross between Edie Brickell and Suzanne Vega. Her falsetto is to die and their vocal emotions are gripping. This band handles all the pin drop moments extremely well. The songwriting is brilliant and provides a lot of musical variety and emotion. I can honestly say I was entertained the entire time, with never a dull moment to be found. All the Engineering aspects are in check (Recording, Mixing, and Mastering) as the CD possesses Gold Standard solid low end punch and crystal clear high end clarity. From rocking “Dust to Dust” to melodic “Song in My Head” to striking “Brother” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 7 “Wanted man” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
It’s had to find solid weakness with this CD. This CD showcases 7 breathtaking songs however at the end of the day it’ needs perhaps 2 to 5 more songs to make it a “fully loaded” CD release. I wish there were more solo segments throughout the CD.
From start to finish this latest release from the Whitley/Loomis dream team “The Banner Days” is an impressive catalogue of music. The music is very consistent, well-crafted and extremely entertaining. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The production strokes: writing and playing abilities of these 2 are rock solid. The melodies and harmonies are well crafted and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with rich conventional wisdom. The vocal presence of both Whitney/Loomis work well and are world class. We can only hope there’s more where that came from.
Cyrus Rhodes Rhodes