Nashville-based John Salaway has some pedigree, as a weekly residence at BB King’s Blues Club might testify. With influences that include a familiar roll call of names – Petty, Dylan, The Band and Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Salaway has aimed this unambiguously titled album squarely at the Americana market.
‘Americana Dreams’ is a curious mix of sounds and styles. The opening track ‘It Feels Great’, along with ‘Good for Me’, are a couple of bubbly and sunny sounding songs that wander dangerously into throwaway pop category. Unashamedly upbeat, they represent the album’s low points.
The rest of the album has much more imagination on offer. Veering very much into Simon & Garfunkel territory with ‘It’s All in Your Mind’ and ‘The Beauty That Surrounds Us’ there could not be a bigger contrast in sound. On the former we have the gorgeous harmonies and fiddle playing of Bri Murphy who is also credited with a co-write. The result is a lovely song, beautifully played and sung, that fully merits its comparison with the mighty S&G.
If that is the undoubted highlight of the album then the ‘The Beauty…’ follows closely behind, this track featuring the haunting cello of Amber Den Exter. The quality of these songs and the way that minimal musical accompaniment allows Salaway’s vocals to shine suggests that this is a style that might better suit his undoubted ability.
Best of the rest would be ‘You’d Better Believe’ featuring a memorable little guitar riff, shared vocals with Kelsey Steele and some great guitar and dobro playing from Stuart Montez. Representing another shift in style and tempo, this has a bluesy soulful feel to it, louder and attention-grabbing and, rather like the aforementioned Bri Murphy, Steele’s vocals really add depth and quality to proceedings.
With ‘Americana Dreams’ Salaway set out to record a sunny, optimistic album that, in his own words, “inspires people and make them feel uplifted”. With songs that remind us to seize the moment, savour the good times and let go of life’s unnecessary burdens, perhaps, at a time when optimism is very much in short supply, Salaway can be forgiven some musical unevenness along the way.