January 03, 2008

Music Review: The Wreckers - Way Back Home: Live From New York City

The Wreckers more than proved themselves in the realm of country music with their 2006 album, Stand Still, Look Pretty, a well-crafted effort with as much kick and conviction as anything coming out of Nashville at the time. The duo of Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp harmonize so impeccably on record that, at times, their voices almost sound as one. Translating that chemistry to the concert stage would further confirm their validity as country artists and with the release of Way Back Home: Live From New York City, they demonstrate how well they’ve succeeded.

This live album includes DVD and CD versions of the Wreckers’ performance at the Bowery Ballroom in July 2007, each disc boasting the same thirteen tracks. While the DVD makes for enjoyable viewing, its most redeeming quality isn’t the visual production but rather the vocal performance. For that reason, the audio disc offers the more rewarding document of this event.

Branch and Harp sound like seasoned vocalists, their harmonies blending seamlessly regardless of tempo or style. Sparks fly on roadhouse rockers like “My, Oh My” and “Damn That Radio,” the latter written by Gretchen Wilson and Jason Deere. On slower songs such as “Crazy People” and the Wreckers’ biggest hit, “Leave The Pieces,” they deliver plenty of twang and honky-tonk despair.

Because of her success as a pop artist, Michelle Branch likely has more name recognition than her fellow Wrecker. Yet, it’s Jessica Harp who shines especially bright throughout this show. Two songs in particular, “Cigarettes” and the aching ballad, “Tennessee,” were written solely by Harp and she sings them with unguarded sincerity. She exhibits remarkable depth and insight in her songwriting, attributes that will no doubt enhance and influence her forthcoming solo album.

Still, by bringing their respective talents together, Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp achieve a unique symmetry in their sound. Way Back Home: Live From New York City suitably captures how the Wreckers create that sound in concert.

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