Silver Lake 66 has a new album out now. It’s titled, Ragged Heart. But first, for those not yet familiar with SL66 a bit of background on the act in question:
Silver Lake 66
Silver Lake 66 is a Portland-Oregon based pair of performers consisting of Maria Francis (vocals, acoustic guitar, and percussion) and Jeff Overbo (vocals, acoustic, electric and baritone guitars). Inspired by the likes of Lucinda Williams, The Band, and The Civil Wars, the tuneful twosome’s signature sound is a melding of multiple music genres including Americana, blues, classic country, folk, and rockabilly. They dropped their premiere platter Let Go Or Be Dragged in 2016.
This album of all original material focuses on songs about love, pain, perseverance, and hope. In their own words:
“Ragged Heart is a collection of songs inspired by the strange and crazy ride we all share – life. Sometimes life is funny, sometimes it’s painful, and sometimes it’s just plain bizarre! As songwriters, we are motivated by everyday trials and tribulations, humor, and larger themes like travel, loss, aging, and the importance of human connection.”
On this album Francis and Overbo are backed by an assortment of other artists. The list includes Bryan Daste (pedal steel and alto sax), Toupee Zehr (bass), Hank Rasco (Hammond organ), Paul Brainard (trumpet), Scott Van Schoick (trombone), Pete Moss (bari sax), and the Bizarre Star Strings featuring Kylene King (viola and fiddle), Patti King (violin), and Jessie Dettwiler (cello).
Track by track
This 10-track audio offering opens on the “autobiographical” song “Blue Earth County.” It was chosen for an accompanying music video. The tune is no doubt a solid choice for live gigs as well.
The titular track, “Ragged Heart,” is one of the first singles off the new disc. As a creative type, your randy writer confesses that much like the character in the song he too has heard “the whiskey and bright lights callin’.” Francis told the press:
[The song] “was inspired by a documentary we watched about the tragic life of the late, deeply talented Townes Van Zandt. What resonated for me were the consequences brought on by the road taken in the pursuit of the dream. The narrator…yearns to reconnect with an estranged love, even though she realizes that the sacrifices made for the pursuit of a dream demand a heavy price.”
She added: “She’s been through hell and back with her partner, and her heart is worn and ‘ragged,’ although there is still a hint of hope in her words. Musically, the arrangements and instrumentation are stripped down and straight ahead to highlight the vocals. I think of this tune as having a modern California country vibe with a dash of the Bakersfield sound of the ‘60s thrown in for good measure.”
“Broken” is the next number. It’s a sad song that sounds as if it was inspired by someone like Roy Orbison.
The nigh classic cut “Faded Tattoo” is different than the numerous biographical bits. The band notes that this tuneful tale is told: “through the eyes of a fictional character.”
“Tender” no doubt works well live as a great slow dance song and remains true to the act’s signature sound.
The sixth selection is “Check Out to Cash.” Here is yet another example of their ability and willingness to switch lead vocals and POV. It provides a welcome variety to the overall presentation.
“Hard Thing to Do” sounds almost like an old classic. It certainly speaks to their songwriting skills and perhaps to their personal music preferences.
“Like a River” is well-christened as it truly has a real flow to it and again emphasizes what Francis and Overbo are capable of when working together.
On “Broken Dreams & Cigarettes” they take a all too common concept and turn it into something new by making it personal with an autobiographical angle.
The album endnote is “Such a Mess” (so to speak). This is another number that works well as a slow dance. It focuses on a common yet still interesting aspect of life and relationships. The cut has a great “you’re-not-perfect-but-you’re-perfect-for-me” vibe that would have them getting all soft and sappy at one of those country music clubs where the stage is curtained by chicken wire. (Still, as they used to say on the Irish Spring soap commercials “I like it too.”)
Overall, the album contains some solid songwriting, good, often personal song subjects, and effective, entertaining melodies. So listen to Silver Lake 66’s Ragged Heart because it’s really not a “Hard Thing to Do.”