Thunderbolt and Lightfoot - Songs for Mixed Company (2017)

Written by Montey Wright, posted by blog admin

It isn’t enough to cop a pose and hope it sticks. It won’t. Devotees of Americana music will eventually hear through the pretense and peg you for the dilettante you are. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, the moniker singers/songwriters/musicians Phil Barry and Sarah Fuerst adopted for their collaboration, are as real as it gets, there’s no posing here. Their self-titled first release garnered praise from every quarter as a special creative bond exists between Barry and Fuest anyone can hear if they bother listening. Their complete command of the necessary musical lexicon never strikes a false note and, instead, incorporates atypical sounds into the duo’s traditional approach. Mellotron and a generous amount of organ fill the song with colors quite uncommon to the style and the added atmospherics they bring to the table enhance, rather than detract, from the musical enterprise.

The moments of overall understatement on the album are memorable for a number of reasons. “Let’s Be Friends” has a low-key heartbroken glow surrounding every vocal and instrumental line, but the mood generated by those two components working together so well is what the track ultimately relies on for its success. Barry and Fuerst rarely sing in outright lockstep and we, as listeners, are better for the fact/ The less than seamless mesh of their singing sounds like there is some point-counterpoint between their voiced while they show off plenty of range to fill the song’s emotional vistas. “Miss Me” sounds someone’s studied their classic 60’s-70’s country and nail the style. There are stinging steel guitar licks rising out of the mix and bringing some welcome vibrancy to what might otherwise sound like a paint by numbers number. “Can’t Be Trusted” is definitely one of the album’s best writing shots as Phil Barry seems to totally relish an opportunity for embodying a much darker character than we’ve thus far encountered during the album.

“Year of the Monkey” is another extraordinarily sturdy track in the Americana vein that doesn’t fail to bulge at those boundaries a little without ever transforming into something else entirely. It’s one of the album’s strongest lyrical numbers and, for anyone paying attention, it must become increasingly clear that the words are, perhaps, an underrated aspect of their presentation. “Sweetest Baby” is another of the album’s more entertaining moments thanks to its liberal use of traditional tropes and the sheer charisma of their joint delivery. It ambles with a good natured gait for the entirety of the song and marks one of the more unabashedly likeable songs on the album. There is a discernible undercurrent, even here, but the beauty of this track is how it can be enjoyed in more than a few ways. They will definitely turn some heads with a delicately wrought take on Bruce Springsteen’s 1984 classic “I’m on Fire”. The song has been covered before, but Thunderbolt and Lightfoot bring a simmering delicacy to their performance that distinguishes them from the pack. “Dearly Beloved”, much like the earlier “Sweetest Baby”, sports a real undercurrent, it nevertheless tosses some humor into a mix that can easily slip into heavy handed despair. Its affectionate disposition is a welcome ending for Songs for Mixed Company and constitutes a backwards wave as they are surely moving on to future live shows and even better albums to come.