Review Summary: Pleasant yet extraneous.
It always feels weird when an artist releases an alternate takes kind of record, especially now when that kind of thing is usually reserved for the special edition bonus disc that inevitably gets sent to brick and mortar retailers when initial album sales start to slump after the singles are all played out and the tour cycle has come to an end. Allison Weiss' semi-acoustic reinvisioning of her well received Say What You Mean: Sideways Sessions
feels no different. The songs are still absolutely astounding, but it's hard to take it as its own entity when nothing worthwhile is really brought to the table in the Sideways sessions. Weiss is still achingly honest and straightforward with her heart, but it's impossible to catch lightning twice, which is even more apparent when it's the same songs. The only difference on many of the tracks is that her Fender twang has been swapped out for a dreadnaught acoustic. The instrumentation rarely varies; the chords don’t even change from their original heavy strumming to more gentle picking to fit the lighter move. The only time she does decide to change things up is on the original release's most upbeat track “Don't Go”, but the results are split. The pounding faux-country snare and honky tonk verse riff end up sounding awkward and out of place, feeling more like fun idea that didn't quite come together than the powerful anthem of its better half.
That being said the Say What You Mean: Sideways Sessions
is still a very enjoyable record. The only real problem is the resounding “why” when seeing it loaded up next to its name sake in your iTunes. While I totally understand that every artist wants to put out their art how they see fit, sometimes they need to take a small step back and not mess with perfection.