First Appeared in The Music Box, September 2005, Volume 12, #9
Written by T.J. Simon
After three acclaimed country albums on the Warner Bros. label, the family act from Canada known as The Wilkinsons finds Steve (Dad Wilkinson), Tyler (Son Wilkinson), and Amanda (Daughter Wilkinson) releasing their fourth album Highway on an independent label. Rather than using this as an excuse to spread their collective wings and break the chains of a mainstream country sound, the effort finds the trio mostly traversing some rather dull territory.
Amanda carries the vocals for all but three of Highwayís tracks, and without question, she has a terrific voice that is betrayed by albumís bland songwriting as well as its unimaginative production. One Blue Day could have been a great, smoky, jazz number abetted by a country flavor, but instead it simply presents a missed opportunity. L.A. has some good lyrics that spew vitriol at the notoriously shallow city, but, like the rest of the affair, the same song could have been recorded in a more interesting fashion. Inside the Lines is another half-decent selection, especially for women in need of a good female empowerment anthem; in that regard, think of it as mainstream countryís answer to John Mayerís No Such Thing. Tylerís lone vocal contribution Human is nice enough, but it also is utterly forgettable. Steve delivers the title tune in a mild-mannered tone that is sure to relax the listener, but on the discís closing shot Grains of Sand, his voice is way too high in the mix ó so much so that it drowns out the cool mandolin accompaniment.
Fans of shiny, polished, pop-infused country will probably enjoy Highway just fine. However, for those whose tastes bend more towards Americana or rough-hewn roots music, the album is a real dud. The Wilkinsons seem like a decent family with considerable talent, but itís inordinately frustrating that the trio has chosen to celebrate its freedom from major-label constraints by taking such safe passage down this musical highway. Ĺ
Highway is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box