What do you do when you’ve written songs that have been etched into the fabric of timeless rock songs? What’s next when you’ve already had several careers’ worth of achievements?
You could flip the whole thing on its head and make a record that sounds like you started the band last week with your best friends, simply for the love of making music…which is exactly what Jakob Dylan and his band The Wallflowers have done. “Glad All Over” sounds like a group of 21 year-olds ready to set the world on fire, but with the wisdom of a veteran band that knows how to let just the right amount burn.
The Wallflowers formed in 1989, and in 1992 released their classic self-titled debut album, featuring one of the greatest songs of social commentary I’ve ever heard, “Asleep at the Wheel.” From there they skyrocketed with 1996’s “Bringing Down the Horse,” which went quadruple platinum, won two Grammys, and was praised by everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Tom Petty.
The Wallflowers went on to release three more records between 2000 and 2005, absolute rock and roll perfection, and more radio smashes like “Murder 101″, a duet with Elvis Costello, “Sleepwalker”, and “Here He Comes”. You’d be beyond lucky to have a career like this, but how do you keep it going? How do you avoid repeating yourself?
The odd thing about rock and roll is, with all the bang and rip and brag and cuss… it gets old after a while. Most platinum-selling artists end up chasing hit after hit, feeling like they’re only as good as their last single, leaving no room for depth. The Wallflowers are different, they had hits, huge hits, etc, but they don’t chase it. They make brilliant albums in their own time, and the success comes because the songs are that good.
When you know how to walk that tightrope you’re unstoppable.
Only then is time on your side, which is what it took to write “Glad All Over.” The band took a long hiatus over the last five years to pursue other projects. The current Wallflowers lineup includes original members: keyboardist Rami Jaffee, who has spent the past several years recording and touring with The Foo Fighters, garnishing a few more Grammys as well as continuing his regular session work (with the most notable sessions for Kris Kristofferson and Lucinda Williams), bass player Greg Richling who has been busy producing many records in the U.S. and abroad, including platinum selling material from Norway’s most successful rock band BIGBANG, and Jakob Dylan, who recently debuted a pair of solo albums, 2008’s “Seein’ Things” and 2010’s “Women and Country.” Now, after the hiatus, we have the band back together, ready to go, trimmed, tight, and at their perfect fighting weight. Joining original members Rami, Greg and Jakob is longtime guitarist Stuart Mathis who has been keeping busy during hiatus working with the likes of Chris Isaak, Lucinda Williams and Sara Bareilles; and new drummer Jack Irons (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam) who has put out several highly respected solo albums in recent years. Jakob says, “It’s been a while since we’ve felt this energized and creative. We haven’t changed our stripes so much as we’re continuing to redefine the animal.”
From the Clash-inspired “Reboot the Mission,” (featuring Mick Jones on vocals and guitar) with its unmistakable shuffle backbeat, to the pulsing forward push of “It’s a Dream,” like an old Motown song but with an almost Tom Waits twist, there’s fresh blood on the canvas. This is the sound of a band just going for it…but they’re going for the heart as well as the gut.
Songs like “1st One in the Car” prove again that The Wallflowers know how to write a hook, but with the depth to last through time. “In the backseat you slip, form a girl to a woman in less than a minute…may God be the first one in the car, may He be the last one out of ours.” It strikes a chord when you hear that familiar voice, almost whispering, over the wires to your speakers – you feel that night happening, you’ve lived that night. Or take “Love is a Country,” where you feel the wind as you’re driving down the road while The Wallflowers tell your story back to you: “The only things living around here don’t wanna talk…love is a country better crossed when you’re young…” I well up every time I hear it.
“Glad All Over” was produced by Jay Joyce (Emmylou Harris, Cage the Elephant) and mixed by Rich Costey (Bruce Springsteen, The Shins), at Dan Auerbach’s (The Black Keys) Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville. There’s a true sense of poetry all over this record. Mix that with the energy of songs like “Have Mercy On Him Now” – fueled by the incredible new heartbeat of the band, Jack Irons – what more could you ask for?
I don’t know what makes hits any more, and if you’re honest with yourself, neither do you. So who cares, just enjoy what’s here and remember to miss it when it’s gone. We’ve had amazing times with The Wallflowers, but this is a new day and a new band…don’t except the same old tricks. They’ve got some new fire in the engines, and good for you boys – we’ve always loved you, and now with “Glad All Over” we love you even more!
–Brian Fallon, The Gaslight Anthem