Album Review
9:44 am
Tue October 8, 2013

Magnolia Mountain: Beloved

Magnolia Mountain is a Jack Daniel’s and Budweiser band in a town made for craft brew and Buffalo Trace -- and that seems to be just fine by them.

Magnolia Mountain is a band that pretty much has it all.  With a lineup that includes Mark Utley [guitar & vocals], Renee Frye & Melissa English [vocals], Jeff Vanover [guitar], Dusty Bryant  [keyboards], Victor Strunk [bass] and Todd Drake [drums], there are no holes in this group’s sound. 

When you combine that with one of the best recording engineers in town in the person of John Curley [Afghan Whigs] – Beloved, the 4th full-length release by the band, presents a bold and beautiful collection of music.

Their no-frills, no-pretense approach to songwriting comes right from the soul, and lead singer Mark Utley has no problem baring it all in the poetry of his lyrics.

The album opens with the song “Midnight Man” in which Utley proclaims:

I like to go out drinkin’
I like to go downtown
I like those pretty women
Like to turn their heads around

It is this take-me-as-I-am approach to songwriting that has made Magnolia Mountain one of the premier live bands in town.

“Ain’t Enough Anything” caught my attention right away as a somber yet bold and brash statement, and when sung by Renee Frye, that female voice given to the hard words reminded me of Patsy Cline or a young Loretta Lynn – women who were as uncompromising in their music as they were in their lives.

Similarly, in “Not That Much,” Melissa English’s presence as a strong and independent woman is closely reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde [Pretenders].

Utley’s vocals on “Lonesome Train” mix perfectly with Dusty Bryant’s keyboard work to make one of the most touching and moving blues songs I’ve heard in a long time.

Whether it is the ‘angry jilted lovers'’ anthem of “Fool No More” or the ‘let’s run off together and start all over’ dreamscape of “The Southbound Lane,” Beloved holds a little something for everybody inside.

It is far too easy and simple to classify Magnolia Mountain as a country, alt-country or country-roots band because their music draws from many places including Americana, rock, R&B and soul.  The band doesn’t fit into any category.  They’re just a really good group of musicians – and that seems to be just fine by them.

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