The Flyin’ A’s is an Austin, Texas-based husband and wife duo. Their upcoming new album, No Holds Barred, is due to drop on February 7th. But first, for those not yet familiar with the artists in question, a bit o’ background.
The Flyin’ A’s
The Flyin’ A’s are songwriters Hilary Claire and Stuart Adamson on vocals and guitars and vocals respectively. According to their official website, the talented twosome met back in 2003 at the Kerrville Folk Festival. It was there that Stuart asked Hilary to be a “backup singer for his own band.”
As time went on Hilary “found herself being pressed more and more towards center stage until a true collaboration emerged.” They got married in 2005. The next year they released their premiere platter Blacktop, Back Roads as the Flyin’ A’s.
The performing pair’s rockin’ resume also includes their 2011 album, ‘Til They Shut It Down, 2012’s Faith and Gasoline, and their recent release 2016’s You Drive Me Crazy. The latter was included on the 2017 first-round Grammy Ballot. They have toured the US, the UK, and Europe as well.
The Flyin’ A’s signature sound is a mix of multiple music genres, including Americana, Texas country, and folk, gospel and southern blues.
No Holds Barred
Not to be confused with the soundtrack to the 1989 Hulk Hogan movie of the same name, No Holds Barred has less to do with wrestling and more to do with life and love. In an online statement the pair noted:
“We have put our heart and soul into writing [this] new set of songs, as well as recording songs that our fan base and friends have been asking us to record for a long time.”
On this disc, they are backed by other artists including producer Chris Gage (keys, lap steel, dobro, accordion, mandolin, guitar, and harmony vocals), Kevin Hall (drums and percussion), and Glenn Fukunaga (electric bass).
Track by track
This 13-track album opens on “Going Crazy.” It’s by Stuart Adamson. The musical give and take between the couple is clear from the start. The second selection is “Rhyme Or Reason.” It’s an exemplary intro to the Adamsons’ cooperative efforts as songwriters.
The next number is “She Feels Like Home.” This is a wonderful, slow love song by Stuart. It is both realistically simple and yet poetic. If he was single it would win him a lot of ladies’ hearts. Josh Flowers appears here on double bass.
They pick things up again with “Heart Brakes.” It’s a fun track. With a running time of just a tad over two and a half minutes, they hit the brakes too soon. But, hey, leave the audience wanting more, okay.
“Coal Tattoo” follows. It’s an effective adaptation of a song by one of their songwriting faves Billy Edd Wheeler. The song is ready-made for a road trip through the country. It’s fleshed out with the appearance of Kym Warner (Green Cards and Robert Earl Keen) on mandolin, Warren Hood on fiddle, and an encore by Flowers.
The travelin’ troubadours slow it down a bit once more with “Faith And Gasoline.” It’s a fine example of what Hillary Claire can do as a solo songwriter. Its a fan fave and one of her SWRFA (Southwest Regional Folk Alliance) songs as well.
“What’s Wrong With You For Loving Me” is the act’s honest adaptation of a song by Al Staehely, lead singer of the band Spirit. It’s one of those slightly swampy songs. They really sound like they dig doing it too. No doubt it’s an all-around crowd pleaser anywhere they play it. (Word has it, it’s “Spirit-approved” too!)
The cautionary cut “First Taste” follows. There’s something slow, tempting, and almost forbidden about this one. They make it strong and smoky without overdoing it.
“We Will Again” is another cover song. Stuart wrote this with a few partners but other than their hardcore fans, who can tell? They perform it as if they not only own it but love it too.
“House For My Dog” is another example of what Hillary Claire can do on her own. It runs the razor’s edge between being clever and too cute. Fortunately, they walk this tuneful tightrope just fine.
Next is “Nothing Can Stop My Loving You.” It’s their version of an old Roger Miller and Goerge Jones song. They own it and it undoubtedly works even better in those honky-tonks where people get off their butts and dance.
Their obvious influences continue to be revealed here as they perform their version of “Lungs” by Townes Van Zandt
All too soon comes “Letting Go.” It’s an apt album endnote. It’s Hillary Claire’s best song on the album. It’s pretty, sincere and provides the entire album with a quiet thoughtful close too. Andrea Magee of Beat Root Revival appears on Bodhran.
Overall, the album includes tuneful tips of the 10-gallon hat to the artists who inspired them along with a healthy dose of their original material as both solo and collaborative songwriters. The work focuses on songs of heartbreak and healing and presents performances of love, life and the usual travails filtered through their personal perceptions and perspectives. So check out The Flyin’ A’s’ No Holds Barred because if you’re unfamiliar with the dueting duo it’s an exceptional “First Taste” of their talent.