Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Album of the Week: HOMEFRONT by The Great Unknowns

One of the highlights of 2011 for me was discovering talented new artists and sharing them with ya'll here. I'm thrilled to continue that tradition in 2012 by introducing The Great Unknowns. I suspect The Great Unknowns won't remain unknown for long, because the emphasis on their album HOMEFRONT is surely on the "Great." Sounding like a cross between Lucinda Williams and Reckless Kelly, singer Becky Warren and bandmates Avril Smith, Altay Guvench, and Andy Eggers deliver an earnest dose of alt-country blues. From the first crunchy guitar chords of "Lexington" to the last somber note of "Army Corps of Engineers," HOMEFRONT is a beautiful, yet bittersweet musical masterpiece. Somewhere in the uncharted musical landscape between Country, Rock, and Blues lies my favorite kind of music; heartfelt and honest, full of soul and pulsing with energy. The Great Unknowns ride through this musical wilderness like expert Indian trackers. Never taking a false step, never hesitating, they move so seamlessly thrugh the musical terrain you almost forget they're there. Against this musical backdrop, Becky Warren's lyrics and voice shine like stars in the autumn night sky. She bares her personal struggles with the divorce of her husband who returned home from Iraq with PTSD. But through the break up there's a compassion for the man she can no longer bear to stay with. In "Long Way Home," she sings, "I know you're not to blame, but my heart broke all the same. You came back to me a different man." And again in the same song she adds, "I wish I'd taken one more look at your face, 'cause you're a stranger to me now." Clearly this is not a "take a louisville slugger to the headlights" breakup. This is not a woman escaping from a prison-like relationship. This is a woman forced to flee the home she loved as she watches it burn to the ground. To escape the pain of that reality, Becky and company take us on drink-to-forget exodus from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Ozarks and beyond. With guitars jangling like spurs, The Great Unknowns try desperately to outride the truth they can't face. In "Homefront," Becky even considers the perspective of her troubled soldier husband, singing "Somewhere along this highway is the soul of every man who ever left his girlfriend to fight in a foreign land... sweet Elizabeth you were right, there ain't no homefront." But through the struggles Becky finally finds acceptance, if not peace, as she sings in the album's final track, "Army Corps of Engineers;" "First April without you, I went down to the bridge,I gathered all my ghosts and threw them in... This too will pass away, like your breath on a window on a cold winter's day." The entire album plays like a soundtrack in search of a movie - a very good movie at that. The soldiers who serve our country give up so much for the benefit of the rest of us - sometimes they give so much of themselves that they forget who they are. HOMEFRONT reminds us, in a deeply personal way, the sacrifices our soldiers (and those who love them) make; and that the battles still rage even when the war is over.

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