Western States “From The Center Out” (Independent, 2019)

I wanted to dig up old demons who still pull the strings…” declares Tim Lloyd, whose previous band The Doxies, were once hailed as “that rare creature, the great Midwestern rock band”. Now fronting the Western States, Lloyd continues to harness the Mississippi River winds, providing country-infused rock to the St Louis faithful around the old Soulard district and further afield. ‘From The Center Out’ is a collection of character-driven narratives on populist disillusion. Snapshots from the opposite end of the American Dream.

Opener ‘Fire and Rage’ lashes out at the uncertainty and the track’s lyrical imagery sets the scene for a debut album of soul searching and rust-belt identity analysis: “abstract mind, concrete heart, swinging at the world, trying to break it apart” reflects Lloyd, while clever Hammond organ work, guitar sustain and layered vocals provide the endless horizon effect that engineer Jason McEntire made famous for Son Volt. Everywhere the listener tunes in on ‘From The Center Out’, there’s a tale to be told, a Midwestern destiny being chased. Latest single ‘The Duke’ evokes Springsteen at his gritty, urban best as the story unfolds of the boxer “tired of taking hits for nothing…” but refusing to take the fall. The moods change, ‘Gun Feels Heavy’ tightly wound and rocking out to some serious pressure from lead guitar man Sean Canan, while ‘Catch You Turning Around’ with its soaring vocals, slide guitar and thumping bass leads the listener to the mountains. ‘I Can’t Get Down’ tells of a redundant line worker who plays the riverboat casino; he knows the house is rigged to win but the drinks flow and he gets by and the trade-offs between the funky Hammond B3 and the lead guitar licks almost tell the story themselves.

Western States address deep social concerns as well as common everyday life issues and they do it with a nuance that bears witness to the confluence of the great Mississippi and Missouri rivers. The obvious influence that this has on the great city of St Louis and its residents comes through strongly on ‘From The Center Out’. Playing this in your living room, you can almost feel the river breezes as these Midwestern dramas play out.

Midwest country rock with Mississippi humours
7/10

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