With a southern rock grit transmitted through slick studio-polished production, the new record, West of the Blindside, from Nashville’s Highway Natives manages to highlight a hearty brawn in their vintage-inspired take on roots-rock.
The quintet seemingly set out to create a record that echoes a 70s Allman Brothers essence, but with a modern outlook on life. West of the Blind Side was funded entirely by a Kickstarter campaign, displaying the fans and supporters the group has. And what an album it is.
The first track, and also one of the three singles, “Doghouse,” begins with a rugged guitar line and a slight raspy vocal coming in to tell the listener how it all went wrong. The song has a catchy hook that comes in full blast with a powerhouse harmony. “I’m stuck in the doghouse / I ain’t no good in your eyes.” The cherry on top is a solo utilizing a powerful distorted guitar bending and wailing to really nail home the Americana rock sound the band has developed. It’s a great introduction to the world of Highway Natives.
Another single from the record, “Cold Feet,” is a slower southern-style rock ballad that is reminiscent of a groove you might find in a Tom Petty deep cut. It’s a strong track from the band that utilizes two lead singers. The trade-off between singers and the harmony from both adds a depth to the story the song wants to tell. Not to mention, it has an artfully crafted bridge that sounds like Steely Dan decided to set up camp down south for a while. With an eclectic mix of these jazzy elements, the song excels in converting from classic rock ballad to danceable world groove by the end.
With a reverb-laden vocal, beautiful violin, and a sharp acoustic guitar, “The Lens,” is a beautiful but melancholic song that I’d pair with a glass of whiskey while rain patters on the roof overhead. The emotional pain present in the song is something that all humans more or less go through. It tugs at the heartstrings, but somehow makes all the difference in bearing our own pain.
The last of the singles, “A Bullet With My Name” is a powerhouse track that utilizes the band’s strength in writing music that accompanies those who’ve ever felt the urge to ramble, and the inability to settle down. The song pulls the listener in to be the main character and identify with their story in a most effective way.
The record finishes with a down and dirty groove with “The Bull.” It’s a powerful farewell track for the album, and the song truly does give off bull in a china shop energy.
West of the Blind Side is a stone cold solid debut album from Highway Natives, and we’re here for it. As Jordan Miller of the band said in our prior interview with the band, their priority now is to “hit the road as much as possible to promote it.” Get out and see them.