(Saints Rest Records, CD)
The Burlington music scene has always been a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll. Acts such as Chrome Cowboys, The Middle Eight and Starline Rhythm Boys have long mirrored the area's rural cosmopolitanism with an electrified twang. Will, a five-piece comprising Eoin Noonan, Dave Anderson, Matt Marro, Conor McQuade and Jeremy Woods, are the latest locals to saunter down this well-trodden path.
Their self-titled debut release boasts a dozen mid-tempo pop tunes accented with banjos and whiskey-and-tears wordplay. For the most part, Will comes across like a more rock-centric Middle Eight. It remains to be seen if they can fill the dusty boots of that sadly defunct outfit.
Due to the first-rate production, the album's every strummed guitar and tapped high-hat rings out loud and clear. However, the material itself suffers from an inconsistency typical of such a green group.
"Lights Low," the strongest track, is a moody slow-burner with an inescapable hook and enveloping, late-night cool. The twirling guitar lines and drowsy vocals combine to form a hard-to-forget slice of sleepy Americana. Murder ballad "Troubled Heart" presents macabre poetry all gussied up with tender crooning and layered leads. Here, again, the band shines strong.
Elsewhere, they aren't quite as successful. While "One More Drink" features drummer Marro's best kit work, its trite stoner poetry -- including the line "twist a fattie / and end this horror" -- is frankly embarrassing. The slanted guitar lines of "No Lie" are stinging and catchy, but ultimately the tune can't escape its Modest Mouse-gone-pop roots.
Where the group does click, such as on the back-porch rave-up "No Big Surprise," it's difficult to determine whether the credit should go more to the band or its producers.
Will are a talented young group whose ear-snagging tunes and impressive arrangements might herald a major growth spurt. Here's hoping they'll stick around long enough to produce a follow-up; chances are it'll be a stunner.