ROBERT JON and The WRECK – ” Last Light On The Highway “

Posted: December 25, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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May 2020 saw the release of one of my favourite albums of the year – Orange County’s Robert Jon & The Wreck’s ‘Last Light On The Highway’ – an album which is all you could want if you love your Southern-tinged Blues Rock. Robert Jon & The Wreck have been releasing records since 2011, along the way being nominated for numerous awards and touring with some of Blues’ biggest names like Bonamassa, Buddy Guy and Walter Trout.

Southern rock and roll band Robert Jon & The Wreck have been releasing albums since the band’s inception in 2011, collecting multiple awards along the way. Blues infused Southern rock, the band self-produced this 11 track, all-original album that’s fresh with contemporary, expansive sounds and pristine production. Led by vocalist/guitarist Robert Jon Burrison, whose voice is one of the most ear-pleasing today, the band includes Andrew Espantman, Steve Maggoria, Henry James and Warren Murrel.  

A follow up to their 2019 release, Take Me Higher, the band’s newest effort blasts off with “Oh Miss Carolina,” a rock tune with deep Southern roots, led by vocalist/guitarist Robert Jon Burrison. If the beautiful harmonies don’t get you, then Robert Jon’s vocals and the tight-knit band certainly will. The first thing that knocked me out about “Work It Out,” a bluesy soul number with a full horn section, was Robert Jon’s voice—soulful with tone you have to be born with. Enter lovely piano in this rhythmic track, plus interesting chord changes, and tasty guitar riffs. This is feel good music.

There’s plenty for the lovelorn on the album but these tracks aren’t wrapped in the usual Southern rock package. “Tired of Drinking Alone” might seem like a drinking song, but beneath the bourbon and wine is a romantic tune about mending fences with a lost love, an invitation to work things out. Slide guitar and the band’s signature harmonies pave the way.

Backing singers include Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins. The harmonies on this album are part of the band’s signature sound, along with well-crafted songs and outstanding musicianship. One cursory listen might lead you into thinking their sound is Southern rock—they are much more than that.

There might be comparisons to The Allman Brothers’ twin guitar parts on a couple of songs, but the album soars far beyond that with heartfelt lyrics and vocals from a singer who is blessed with a voice and sincere vulnerability. Such is the case with “This Time Around,” a song about making mistakes and promising to be a better man this time around. If this were a different decade, this song and several others would be #1 summer hits.

Quality songwriting abounds on this record, including “One Last Time,” with one helluva melody, the band’s stellar harmonies and tasteful guitar riffs. This song takes a delicious turn at minute three with darker chords, a descending bass line and one killer guitar solo. Country rock ballad, “Gold” is a heartbreaker of a breakup song. Sung from the point of view of the one who was ditched and betrayed, Robert Jon’s vocal is raw with emotion and he tells the story with vivid lyrics. The guitar by Henry James is as moving as the vocals and the song itself. Heartbroken or not, this song will make you feel something. And isn’t that what good songwriting is about?

Closing the album is, “Last Light On The Highway Part 1 and Part 2”. This made me want to see Robert Jon & The Wreck live. Part 1 opens with moody acoustic guitar, haunting vocals and ethereal backing vocals. Robert Jon’s sings, “The thunder of the road is my only friend. I’ll keep driving ‘till I’m the last light on the highway.”

“Last Light On The Highway Part 2” is pure excellence. Pushing the envelope in all the best ways, this is big production with big drums, a descending bass line, twin electric guitars, and strings (a nod to Gideon Klein for string arrangements), all riding into the rough weather of gritty guitar riffs. This track is so interesting musically and the piano is part of what makes it so good. It merges into a driving rocker with a galloping pace, and rises to crescendo with expert drumming, guitar and strings. 

Last Light On the Highway is your pre-summer feel-good album.

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