Wisconsin and Arizona based Ryan Summers and Nate Cherrier’s band, Midwest Soul Xchange, have released their latest album, New American Century. Although we can file the album under Americana, there are a couple of notable strong influences in the mix that will make listeners pay attention in order to decipher. The two bandmates took care of everything on this album: both members contributed vocals and guitars. On top of that Ryan Summers took care of piano, synthesizers, mandolin, lap steel, and the accordion, while Nate Cherrier took care of percussion, bass guitar, and harmonica.
Many of the songs have a laid-back, Americana and folk rock feel. The album opens up with “Set A Course For Common Worlds”, a track built on guitars, an accordion, various percussive instruments including drums, and a harmonica that meld together in a melody from which harmonies emerge left and right. The entire thing has a very 1970s hippie vibe to it. The sparsely built “Roots”—vocals, percussion, harmonica, and guitars—attempts to be an inspiring track using the power of nature to demonstrate what perseverance and strength can build with a warning on the direness of the future if we do not care for what we have. It’s a track one can easily imagine being sung around a campfire.
Social consciousness comes through in some tracks such as “Revolt of the Guards”. The drum-driven track gives the impression of being at war, a war the band seems to indicate is being waged by greed, hoping to conquer all in its path. The organ-like keyboards give the track a very moody and almost eerie feel. Human consciousness is reflected in “She Flies” and “The Return” both calm, almost soothing tracks that seem to be reflections on our mortality more than anything else.
Some of the tracks have a more progressive rock feel to them such as “Truth Attention”, which alternates between almost-relaxed and hazy to choppy and aggressive. The sound works well in the almost-political, drum-driven “Occupy the Piper”, with harmonies reflecting the inequality between classes that the lyrics discuss.
The band also melds together different sounds such as in “Sun Dried”, where Americana comes together with psychedelic rock and, somehow, a grunge-like feel. It’s a weird mix that captures the listener’s attention. Had 1960s rock or pop rock bands infused their numbers with Americana flavors, they might have sounded a little bit like the tongue-in-cheek “Has Anybody Seen Bob?”
The band allows for unconventional instruments to take the lead on some of their tracks, giving them a unique feel and helping them stand out amongst the albums’ eleven tracks. “Kings Among Kings” for example is accordion-driven, with vocals dragging the same way the notes on the instruments do. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band is available on Facebook and on their official website.