One of the few things that can be said of the Back Roads is that they are trying to live up to their namesake. The San Francisco alternative outlet plays in a style that easily conjures the back roads of America—especially the Virginia roads that serve as the inspiration for the EP. The band channels Dylan, Southern Rock, Jackson Browne on the country/folk and rock side while taking cues from Alternative bands like R.E.M. on the disc’s heaviest song “Cold Snow Night.” The mix of influences creates a number of pleasing sounds, but pleasing is about all they are.
The main problem with Wintertime EP is that the four songs sound much too derivative or imitative of the styles that influence them. Lead singer and songwriter Burtt Blodgett may sound like Dylan on “Old Virginia” and the band may conjure a southern rock sound that mirrors Skynyrd and the Allmans, but there is no soul behind it. Even as Blodgett and singer Kathryn Kaine wax poetically about “Old Virginia” the words come out sounding hollow and obscured behind the instrumentation. Aside from “Old Virginia” the worst offender in the above categories is closing track “Whiskey John.” The track makes it sound like The Back Roads were trying to write a song resembling a Virginian folk classic. The spots of slide guitar sound formulaic in their placement into the music rather than organically fitting while the mandolin riffs tacked on in order to create a more authentic “folk” sound. Like on “Old Virginia,” the lyrics are rather simple and stereotypical as can be seen in this gem from the chorus “Whiskey John was an outlaw / Shooting bottles from a tree stump.”
Overall, the Back Roads sound like they looked at a picture of “Virginia in the wintertime” and created music they thought would fit the image. While the music is pleasant to listen to, there is no weight behind the words they sing or the notes they play. I give the band credit for “Wintertime” having sounds reminiscent of snow falling, but that is about it. Your time would be better spent looking at a picture of Virginian back roads than listening to this EP
- Originally published on the Rotation, WGTB Georgetown Radio's Music Blog, on 04/23/14