Rayland Baxter – Wide Awake (album review)

by Woody on July 26, 2018

Photo – Shervin Lainez

It’s been five years since I came across Rayland Baxter at SXSW. This is his second album that he’s released since then (third overall) and the growth he continues to show is a joy to behold. Wide Awake is his best album to date, combining his Americana roots with a Beatlesesque pop sensibility. Produced by Butch Walker, the album is chock full of interesting arrangements and has such a wonderfully pleasing palette for Baxter’s wonderful vocals.

That makes the insightful lyrics that Baxter has penned and his vocals remain as genuine as ever. Throughout the album, Baxter holds up a mirror to the current state of America. One of the reasons I love the podcast Radiolab is that they never explicitly tell you how to feel about the story. Baxter does the same here, more observational than telling you how to think. The opener, Strange American Dream is a tasty jam looking at how we got to where we are now. Amelia Baker (my favorite track) is a stone cold jam. A tale about longing for a Hollywood actress that can’t be realistically attained. The gentle closer, Let It All Go, Man is a beautiful track about just being happy to be alive; to enjoy the beauty in front of you.

Baxter and his band will be at Lincoln Hall Saturday. If you’ve never seen him live, it is a real treat. Kind of like a Michael Kiwanuka show, it is a subtly rocking show. You roll in expecting to hear some quality mid-tempo jams and next thing you know you and your buddy are pointing at each other as your faces melt before your very eyes.

Our 2016 live session is here

Follow me on Twitter at @WoodyHearYa or @HearYa

rayLand is here

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