Robert Jon and the Wreck
Blues-inspired rock as a genre is one of those tricky things to tackle -- there's a reason why a certain scene from Ghost World
is as famous in certain circles as it is, for instance -- and for every recent revivalist that's brought something distinct to the field there have been ten times as many timekillers, dullards and just plain disasters. So Robert Jon and the Wreck get credit for following their heart because it's not always easy to do something with that kind of reputation, but Fire Started
deserves note because while it's a traditional album in many ways, it's a kind of modern traditionalism that draws on multiple sources.
What Fire Started
has as a bit of a secret weapon that becomes clearer the more it goes is how there's an easy-to-enjoy feeling that never really comes close to bar-band tedium. If anything, they could be slipped into more adventurous country playlists as much as anything else -- songs like "Love Roulette" have the same sense of arena/hard rock scale that pretty well defines modern Nashville, perhaps minus the precise radio-ready kick and specific country sonic touches, but it makes the performances feel a little warmer, especially when guitarist Kyle Michael Neal busts out a great solo (as he does more than once).
Jon also scores by not sounding like the chokehold of so much post-grunge spinach that's come down over the years -- if his harmonies and that of his bandmates are pleasant more than full-bodied, there's something to be said for understatement, and there's an appealing conversational feeling to his lead vocals that, even when he takes full flight on a song like "Run Away," doesn't feel the need to strain to convey the point. Fire Started isn't about innovation but it's not about being freeze-dried either -- thank goodness.