Wesley Dean “Music From Crazy Hearts”

Hall Of Flames, 2024

Pop, rock, gospel, and country blend together in uneasy Nashville stew.

Artwork for Wesley Dean album 'Music From Crazy Hearts'Wesley Dean is the artist formerly known as Wes Carr who won Australian Idol back in 2008. He released several albums under that name and another under the pseudonym Buffalo Tales. The current album credits boast both a “choir” and string arrangements. Thankfully the contributions of both are quite tasteful and restrained and even better, the “choir” turns out to be backing singers with a blend of gospel and country including, unfortunately only on one track, the brilliant McCrary sisters whose extensive resume includes significant contributions to Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller albums. Perhaps the latter is the most relevant here as there is a slight echo of Miller’s 2004 album ‘Universal House of Prayer’ in the opening two tracks.

Mercy’ has a rather doom-laden chugging introduction, accompanied by the subtle string section which is joined first by Dean’s booming country vocal and then “the choir” singing the refrain, “God have mercy”. At this point, one could be forgiven for thinking “AUK” had slipped in a Christian music album but as the track unfolds it’s pretty clear that it is doubt and frustration that is being expressed rather than the certainty of faith, “Are you listening?”,“ Why ain’t you answering?” The next track, ‘Burn This House‘, again has a sense of desperation in “Only God can save us now let’s burn this house down.” The strangest thing about this track though is Dean’s vocal which changes quite radically from the opener and has something of John Lennon about it.

The album, and Dean’s vocal, then settles down into material that is mostly somewhere between Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska‘ era and John Mellencamp’s heartland rock, albeit sprinkled with Nashville production. ‘Blood Brothers’ has a small-town theme of childhood bonds breaking with the pressures of adulthood. There is only guitar and vocal here; the latter is a little overwrought, but the song is pleasant enough. ‘Gunslinger’ quickly turns into a rocker again reminiscent of Mellencamp. The title track begins in similar territory but wears a bit on repeated listening.

Tennessee Road’ opens with an intro with Dean and the “choir” trying to work out an arrangement. This is perhaps an attempt to gain roots credentials in an album that sometimes slips into an overly slick feel. The production goes up a notch on several tracks and becomes somewhat intrusive, maybe trying to beef up less powerful material. ‘Doorways’ and ‘Don’t Look Back’ are in AOR territory with Dean’s attempt to rev up the vocals a little unconvincing.

Southern Man’ (no connection with the Neil Young song) has a promisingly menacing opening. The McCrarys are the backing singers here but are relatively subdued in the mix and this feels like a missed opportunity.

Overall one is left with the impression of an artist with impressive vocal chops still trying to figure out his musical direction. One wonders what collaboration with Buddy Miller or Dave Cobb might bring to the party.

6/10
6/10

About Adrian Dzialdowski 6 Articles
My 1970s LP purchases included Rickie Lee Jones, Steve Forbert and T-Bone Burnett but we didn’t call it Americana then. Hard to believe they are all still currently working. I had a hiatus in the 80s and got into blues and jazz in the 90s. However a chance purchase of an UNCUT sampler in the 2000s has led me to the current golden age of Americana.  
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Stuartstorm

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