Heartless Bastards - Restless Ones - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Heartless Bastards - Restless Ones

by Jim Harris Rating:9 Release Date:2015-06-15

Erika Wennerstrom’s band, Heartless Bastards, have come a long way from their Cincinnati-based garage rock three-piece sound of their first couple of albums. On those earlier albums, the rough guitar-strokes and sparse alt-country spaces Erika took the songs to were always second fiddle to her odd vocalizations. Erika has one of the most unique voices you’ll ever hear and this was always a compelling appeal of Heartless Bastards.

Now, five albums into it, they have become a four-piece hard-rocking Americana roots band of the finest kind. Her voice is no longer the distracting dominant instrument and her songwriting has taken a leap forward. This is classic rock 'n' roll, with soaring guitars, soaring themes, all wrapped around acoustic intros and interludes with arena-style execution.

Erika’s voice, songwriting, and enlarged band has created their finest album yet. Restless Ones conjures up the best of hard-rocking John Hiatt, without any twang, and has songs Ryan Adams and the like could only wish for. If Lucinda Williams ever got back into the hard-blues Americana of her early stuff, Erika would still be the closing act.

The ambition, passion, and execution is brilliantly established on the opening ‘Wind Up Bird’. This song is only eclipsed as the classic on Restless Ones by the definitive classic song, ‘Gates of Dawn’. This is Erika’s 'Free Bird' or the closest thing to 'Stairway to Heaven' a classic hard-rock band can get. It will be their encore for many years to come.

The rest of the album is a more than competent homage to all sorts of American classic rock icons, from Warren Zevon (Erika even has a wahhh-oooo, 'Werewolves of London' chorus at one point) to sizzling guitar progressions that conjure up Stevie Ray Vaughn and Gregg Allman. (And to let you in on a little secret that all of her fanatical, particularly male, fans already know, while her photos have her always posing in snarly, attitudinal poses, Erika is an absolutely drop-dead stunning stage presence. Positively one of the most rewarding concerts you will ever see.)

If you are in the least bit weary of dreampop or psych or shoegazing, and need superbly executed 21st century classic rock 'n' roll once in awhile, Restless Ones will be just what the musical doctor ordered. 

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