Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Album review: Two Worlds Collide by The McClymonts

Declaration of bias: I unreservedly and unabashedly love the McClymonts (sisters Brooke, Samantha and Mollie who all sing, and play, in order, guitar, bass and mandolin). I have seen them play live numerous times and plan to keep seeing them play as often as possible. I favourably reviewed their first album all the way back in 2007.

Counterbalance to this bias: their style of country pop/rock is not one I automatically warm to – I normally favour the singer/songwriter alt-country style. So the fact that I love them so much is testament to their considerable talents.

Now that I’ve stated all of that, let’s look at their new album, Two Worlds Collide. I purposely didn’t review their second album, Wrapped Up Good, not because I didn’t think it was great, but because I didn’t think it was as great as their debut album, Chaos and Bright Lights, and the reason for that seemed to be that they’d relied too much on co-writers and not enough on their own songwriting talents (Brooke’s, in particular). Chaos and Bright Lights was light on the co-writes and it was a very strong effort. Wrapped Up Good sounded a bit like they’d listened to people telling them that they should do this, that and the other – like they hadn’t trusted themselves as much as they had on the first album.

Happily, Two Worlds Collide sounds more like the McClymonts in control of their own songwriting destiny. Youngest sister Mollie seems to have more involvement, for one thing, and while there are co-writers credited, they’re not as prevalent as on Wrapped Up Good.

This is a very strong album – possibly their best. Actually, yes, their best. All of the songs are well constructed, easy on the ear and catchy. As always, they harmonise like a dream. The sisters’ voices are at the fore and the instrumentation supports them – an acknowledgement that these voices are now what people recognise and expect, and want to hear.

There’s the odd song that sounds like it should have Samantha singing instead of Brooke (‘Where You Are’, ‘Little Old Beat Up Heart’) as they’re more reminiscent of her style, but we do get our Samantha-sung ballads on ‘Piece of Me’ and ‘Those Summer Days’. ‘This Ain’t Over’ was penned by Samantha and a couple of other writers, and it sounds very much like one of her songs – except Brooke sings it. This in no way detracts from the song, it’s just a curiosity (and possibly only curious to me, who has clearly spent a lot of time pondering the songwriting credits).

The McClymonts consistently put on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, in any musical genre. They are entertainers. They understand what their audience needs and they deliver, always with a smile and consummate professionalism. The same is true for this album – what we need is sweet melodies; some lyrics that are lovesick and sentimental and some that are strong or confessional; an album that is satisfying and that we can listen to over and over again. And we are given all of that. This is not revolutionary country music, if that’s what you’re looking for. But it is a really fantastic country pop/rock album that will not disappoint their growing legions of fans or anyone who is curious to know what they’re about. This is what professional musicians sound like when they hit their stride and know that there’s an audience waiting for them. They have not let us down, and I can’t imagine they ever will.

Two Worlds Collide by The McClymonts (Universal) is available now. 

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