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SPIRIT OF SYLVIA (UPDATE)
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IN PRAISE OF A 21ST CENTURY
HONKY TONK AMERICAN BAND
8/23/19

By Simon Glickman

Why does Midland refresh the parts other bands don’t reach these days? I can’t say for certain, but it probably has something to do with the Texas-based trio’s proprietary and highly intoxicating musical formula, equal parts high-proof honky-tonk, high-octane guitar rock and just-plain-high gossamer pop.

It’s got swagger and it’s got swoon. It shuffles and scoots and boogies. It flashes attitude with a self-deprecating wink. It boasts elegant twinned guitar solos and ear-candy harmonies. In other words, it’s a party in the pleasure center of my brain—and if anything, the boys' new Big Machine set, Let It Roll, ups the dosage.

Mark, Jess and Cameron have got this shit dialed, and on their dazzlingly assured sophomore full-length, they’re at once more fun and more reflective. For sheer breeze-in-your-hair delight, the opening title track hits the soft-rock sweet spot. “Mr. Lonely” is a honky-tonk jam for the ages. “Put the Hurt on Me” is pure sex and smoke, and “Cheatin’ Songs” is exquisitely melancholy. “Every Song’s a Drinkin’ Song” is a deliciously trad singalong. On the blazing “21st Century Honky Tonk American Band,” the threesome kicks out the jams with southern-rock brio—it’s the loudest autobiography in recent memory. And both Cam and Jess get stellar lead turns, on the evocative “Lost in the Night” and the lovely closer “Roll Away,” respectively.

This is a band that’s evolving in all the right ways, bottling the lightning of their killer live shows and simultaneously achieving a disarming intimacy.

I’ve had Let It Roll on repeat all day, and I’m ready for another round.