Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Album Review: Ashes & Angels by Fifth on the Floor

For anyone who's ever wanted to make their own Outlaw Country album, check out Ashes & Angels by Fifth on the Floor. This is Outlaw Country 101. First they make sure to include a few drinking songs (the full tilt "Whiskey" and the bluesy "Wine.") Second, they add the obligatory smackdown to Nashville in "Burnin' Nashville Down." Third, they sprinkle in some rock and roll guitar (especially on "Wild Child" and "The Last Opry." Fourth, they enlist the help of a certified Country outlaw (Shooter Jennings produced this album.) Finally (and not coincidentally, fifth) they sing, write and play with Attitude!
Now that you know the 5 steps to making Outlaw Country, the only step left is to try to live up to the standard set on Ashes & Angels. From the opening drum and fiddle of "Whiskey" to the closing fuzz guitar of "One Big Holiday," Fifth on the Floor is good to the last drop. Their uptempo tunes ("Whiskey," "January in Louisiana," "Burnin' Nashville Down," and "Wild Child") smoke and swagger and make it impossible to not move your feet. Even when the tone it down (especially on "Wine" and the existential "What For") they still capture your attention with their thoughtful lyrics and earnest voices. For me, however, the standout song is "Angels in the Snow." It's their most straight up Country song, complete with steel guitar. It's a nice break from the cynicism and nihilism that by definition infuse the rest of this Outlaw Country album. It's a yearning look back and remembrance of a happier time. It's also an indictment of the limitations of the Outlaw lifestyle; as it points out that when it's all said and done and you look back on life's conquests and adventures, the only moments that truly matter are the ones touched by love.

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