Review Summary: High quality, seventies rock inspired groove-fest, guaranteed to make feet tap and heads nod.
White Denim has been relatively unknown in Europe but extensive touring in the US has resulted in quite a following in their home country. With “Corsicana Lemonade” they arrive at their sixth studio album since their formation in 2006. Throughout their discography their music has shifted in and out of several genres ranging form Indie and psychedelic rock to progressive rock and alt-country, making them hard to place in a definitive stylistic “box”.
This 4 piece outfit from Austin Texas however has a lot to show for when it comes to writing memorable vocal melodies and guitar lines and even though style wise the quartet may have been meandering through the years, there has always been a definite taste of White Denim in their music.
This is no different on their latest offering “Corsicana Lemonade”. The sound this time around is very guitar oriented varying from pointy, fast paced riffs (“At Night In Dreams”, “Come Back”) to more walking, midtempo grooves (“Corsicana Lemonade”, “Distant Relative Salute”). Drenched in a seventies, southern, swamp and folk-rock sound there’s quite some references that spring to mind ranging from Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Black Crowes to Band of Horses, My Morning Jacket and Dave Matthews Band. The songwriting is excellent overall and besides the instantly likeable hard-rocking songs, also the few slower songs ("New Blue Feeling", "A Place To Start") are very convincing and well executed.
Here and there the groove and outstanding instrumental performances of the songs outshine the emotional content of the music. The foot taps to the beat and the head nods to the groove but ultimately the listener is left with a bit of a bland feeling. In other songs however (“Limited By Stature”, “New Blue Feeling”, “Pretty Green”) the emotional delivery is better and the band successfully reaches out for the listener’s heart and soul. These moments can be mostly credited to the outstanding vocal delivery of singing bassist Steve Terebecki. He is definitely one of the most underrated and under-the-radar rock vocalists out there today and luckily his voice is clearly mixed in the forefront most of the time on this album.
The production is in the hands of long time fan Jeff Tweedy from Wilco. This is where the album stands out from earlier output; the style and sound is consistent and the album, albeit a fairly short one with just 38 minutes, works as a whole. The arrangements on various songs are well thought out (“New Blue Feeling” , “Cheer Up/ Blues Ending”) and the songs are carefully placed in the right order making the album very coherent. The light hearted fifties pastiche “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” is the only song where the attention might drift away from the music a little, but a nice breather somewhere in the middle has worked well on other great albums in the past, so no hard feelings.
The sound of the album is overall dark and gritty with bass guitar and guitar licks tightly intertwined in the lower mids of the sound spectrum. Especially on inferior sound systems this might be an issue. Future releases could build towards a more open and even sound stage with a little more room for the individual instruments to breathe.
White Denim deliver a serious(ly produced) rock album, more consistent in style and quality than earlier releases and with that they move away from the Indie denomination towards a more generic (not in a bad way) Rock classification. Only future releases can tell if this is a permanent genre shift or a one off.
“Corsicana Lemonade” is a solid production that fares well with Jeff Tweedy’s involvement but might have benefited from a more sophisticated mix to make the arrangements shine even more.