Album Review: Warden and Co.’s Debut LP, “Somewhere”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Releasing their debut record, Somewhere, on April 8th, Warden and Co. have not only cemented their genres of Americana and Roots-Rock but have also displayed a strong songwriting ability within such veins. Song after song, Seth Warden demonstrates his ability to blend delicious acoustic riffs with chord progressions that bounce into the ears with conviction and demand attention. Combining this with Doug Moody’s prowess on both violin and viola, as well as the rhythmic backbone and punch provided by drummer Brian Melick, Warden and Co. – for lack of a better phrase, albeit bordering on cliche – really have something here. While most of the record does stick to a fairly straightforward formula, once the listeners become acquainted with their style, it is a formula that doesn’t wear on the ears. As the album finishes, it becomes clear the band has created an extremely cohesive body of work.
Take for instance the album’s opener, “Living for Love.” The acoustic intro, which is soon joined by a very prominent violin motif, serves as a great example of how the band enjoys paring these two instruments. As the whole band enters, a strong vocal begins that dances along with the chord progression. When the chorus hits, it becomes obvious the tune will get stuck in your head quickly with its phrase, “You’re not living if you’re not living for love.” The violin motifs and chorus melodies also pair nicely; the viola adds a nice texture to the arrangement. One characteristic of Warden’s writing style – as far as this listener is concerned – is to keep the parts fairly tight and in lockstep with one another.
This is especially true on songs such as, “Stay Strong,” “Middle of Madness,” and “P.S.A.,” tracks two, four, and five, respectively. In the former example, the arrangement conveys this idea thru the drum and acoustic guitar patterns, as well as the falsetto sections mirroring the melody heard in the chorus, albeit an octave higher. In “Middle of Madness,” the repeating acoustic pattern helps hold the song together quite well, and with “P.S.A.,” the band utilizes a classic chord progression that ties the piece together, giving the viola room to shine. The lead part performed by the viola playfully bounces off the melody; the ear gains a sense of familiarity and nostalgia with this performance. Warden showcases his ability to deliver nostalgia not only through the music but through lyrics as well.
The title track, “Somewhere,” track three is a prime example. Not only is there a nice interplay between acoustic and viola, the song really stands out on the record; there’s a tender duet between Seth Warden and his daughter, Lovella. Another example of such a song, despite the fact there’re no more duets – something this listener really would’ve liked to hear more of – is the song, “Lifeguard,” track six. As we make ourselves through the latter half of the album, the energy really blows up.
Featuring a quick drum intro, “Without a Word,” track seven, pivots the album from nostalgia to a much more energetic emotion. The acoustic guitar riff that enters in this track really grabs my ear, and the strings matching the guitar’s part is effective, further bolstering this section. One of the more exciting tracks on the record, the vibraslap definitely caught me off-guard near the middle of the tune, inserting a brief moment of musical humor. Another song on the record with a similar delivery, feel, and flair is “Save Me,” track nine.
As “Without a Word” concludes, the album’s energy is temporarily brought back down with “Miss Fortune,” track eight. What really stands out in this piece is Warden’s use of double entendre with Miss Fortune not only sounding like misfortune but also in the fact it represents the meaning of that word, as well. This is a very nice lyrical and songwriting move.
The last two songs, “Warning Shot” and “You’ve Got a Way with Love,” are great examples of pieces written in drop D tuning. The electric instrumentation is not only enjoyable to hear, but it helps to break the monotonous sonic tendencies in an otherwise acoustic album. With the closing track, it’s clear to see how important a song’s arrangement is to the band; the starts and stops are so well placed in this piece. The combinations of great riffs mixed with solid chord performance really make this a cohesive track. For this listener, the song serves as the best example of Warden’s songwriting abilities.
There’s a lot to be said of this record. From the main components of guitar, strings, and drums, to the sparse addition of piano in various places throughout the record, every instrument has a well-defined home. While a lot of the album begins sounding the same, the band combats this by effectively placing the songs in a manner that creates a nice ebb and flow of energy. For those that are intrigued by Americana and Roots-Rock sounds (with an occasional smattering of Latin influences), as well as those that enjoy quality songwriting, this is the album for them. A very fine debut album, indeed!