Old-school can swing both ways, either stagnating in the stifling melancholy of the past or blossoming thanks to experience. Nashville’s Billy Crain’s latest effort, Family Matters, seems to be a little bit of both. In its 10 tracks (released last September), listeners and lovers of classic rock are bound to find something that they will like.
Although the album can be filed under “classic rock”, there is still quite a selection of styles to choose from. Most of the tracks come off as lighthearted and almost cheerful, even if they have the most dire of names or are about the most dire of topics. The first track for example is anything but dark. Rather, “Dark Horse” is an upbeat and almost-cheerful country rock track one can easily imagine a big crowd singing along to at a concert. A woman is at the centre of yet another upbeat and almost-cheerful track, the follow-up titled “True Beauty”, although one would have expected a sad and forlorn or passionate and rhythmic track. Similarly, the almost-anthemic “Glory (Jim’s Song)” has a bit of a grandiose element to it—mostly due to the fiddle in the opening sequence—making it quite apt as a tribute to a close friend who died of cancer. Despite the unpleasantness of the topic at hand, Crain manages to pull off a relatively uplifting and cheerful number.
There are little touches here and there that give some of the tracks a unique feel. A bagpipe-like instrument (or it is actually bagpipes?) both opens and closes “Lucky Penny”, a mid-tempo alternative rocker that wants itself to be cheerful and uplifting just like the piano-driven “Family Matters”. The latter has a bit of a 1980s feel to it, what with the electronic elements added to it. One can feel the love Billy Crain has for his family in this track. The 1980s are also present in the up-tempo piano- and drum-driven “Road Warriors” which, more than the other tracks on the album, is centered on a story rather than a concept.
A pleasant listen, Family Matters does come off at times as an album by an optimist for an optimist, something that in this world we seem to need more of. Tracks are available on Billy Crain’s YouTube channel. More information is available on his official website and on his Facebook page.