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Ambitious approach yields impressive results and an identity crisis

The Wild Feathers.jpg

By the second song on The Wild Feathers’ self-titled debut album, it is abundantly clear that they can achieve various styles and sounds quite well for a young band — maybe too well.

They charge out of the gate with crackling opener “Backwoods Company,” a rough-and-tumble, Southern-rock tinged stomper that doesn’t sound out of place at all from a band out of Nashville, Tenn., by way of Austin, Texas. That is followed by “American,” a dose of punchy of guitar-pop wrapped in layers of glossy production. There is nothing inherently wrong with either track — it’s just that you could be forgiven for thinking they were recorded by two different bands altogether.

That identity crisis of sorts runs through The Wild Feathers (Warner Bros. Records), as the group’s ambitious, multi-genred approach yields both impressive results and a few noticeably weaker tracks that threaten to weigh down an otherwise worthwhile disc.

That The Wild Feathers would lack a signature sound is to be expected somewhat, considering that they boast three principal songwriters and four prominent vocalists (Ricky Young, Joel King, Taylor Burns and Preston Wimberly). And while that combination results in quite a few influences coming to the forefront — there are strong traces of Tom Petty, The Eagles and Ryan Adams — the band’s only real weakness is not that it’s too derivative. Instead, it’s that glaring clichés make the lesser material feel like filler.

The exuberant rocker “I’m Alive” features a steady stream of hackneyed phrases — there are images of a “dead end street” and “blowing around like a hurricane” — while the thoroughly unconvincing “Hard Times” suggests bluesy ballads are best left to those who can convey their sense of hardship in more dire terms than “I’m like a freight train hummin’ down the line.”

That said, such hiccups are easy to overlook when The Wild Feathers play to their strengths, particularly the glistening, four-part harmonies that make “Left My Woman” and the sunny, should-be smash “Got It Wrong” sound like the work of old pros. Even Young could be referring to his band’s precociousness on “Tall Boots” when he sings: “And all these stories that been told/All have me growin’ old.”

The Wild Feathers are hardly grizzled. If anything, as this album shows, while they are full of youthful vigor and beyond their years in some ways, they still have a little more growing up to do.

— By George Henn