Hope and Wire
Rough Peel Records
It’s a very good album, very strong writing, let’s get that out the way immediately. There’s no reason not to applaud The Eastern for the audacious effort of recording a double-album in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake tragedies – an outpouring of songs amid an outpouring of grief.
And Adam McGrath and Jess Shanks are hardworking songwriters, talented players – as the leaders of The Eastern they’ve assembled a well-travelled, road-tested/road-tight backing unit. It’s heartening too to think that through sheer perseverance (and talent of course) bands like The Eastern are committed to creating a new version of Kiwi country music, an Americana if you will that just happens to come from New Zealand.
And this is where there are some problems. Despite prolific songwriting, McGrath still sounds like Steve Earle, both vocally and in his voice as a writer. He’s one of the greats to emulate of course but when he sings “maybe we’ll burn the Beehive baby” you have to almost cringe. Not that there’s anything wrong with challenging the Government but it just feels too overtly like a Steve Earle influence.
That said, McGrath really is writing better songs than Springsteen these days.