"Runaway" is one of my favorite songs of Summer 2009 (tied with Jake Owen's "8 Second Ride") and I was so looking forward to Love and Theft's full CD "World Wide Open" that on the day it was released, I made the trek to Target so I could get an autographed copy.
Don't you just hate it when you buy a CD based on one song and then discover that rest sound nothing at all like the single? Yep. If you're looking for another up-tempo, fun, tight, turn-it-up track, you won't find it here.
Sigh. I had such high hopes.
But when I got over that initial let down and gave the CD a few more listens, I started to like (but not love) it for what it is: an amusing mix of boy band music with not quite enough country flair for my tastes.
The opening (and title) track "World Wide Open" features nice harmonies and of course "Runaway" is just a killer cut. It's great lead vocals highlighted with great harmonies, clever lyrics and country-rock guitar and drums make me turn it up every time I hear it.
"Can't Go Back" is pretty great, too. A perfect mix of harmonies with a bluegrass soul, it's probably the most "country" song on the CD. "You to Miss" is a pretty -- almost heart-breaking -- ballad that will make the little girls (and this big girl) swoon -- even if singer/songwriter Brian Bandas does seems to be trying to channel Donnie Wahlberg by the end of the song.
An even better ballad is "Me Without You," which I just can't get enough of lately. More subdued than "You to Miss" and without the dramatic vocals, the songs has really gotten stuck in my head. Love it more every time I hear it.
Love and Theft members say their influences include The Eagles, and I really hear that on "Runaway." But all I hear when I listen to "Slow Down" is a darker version of "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. And "Dancing in Circles" is another pseudo-spiritual or maybe contemporary Christian lite track. I have nothing against spirituality in music. Craig Morgan's "God Must Really Love Me" and Josh Turner's "Long Black Train" are examples of how songs about God can also be great country music. But "Dancing in Circles" sounds like something you'd heard sung by a kids' Sunday school choir.
Despite my mixed feeling about the CD, I have every intention of seeing Love and Theft the first chance I get. I think these guys have great potential and I bet they're great live. Would love to hear them cover some Eagles tunes. And hopefully a live show will help me get the image I have of them wearing matching clothes and dancing in unison like a bad New Kids on the Block video out of my head.