Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: Partisan
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Released in 2015, Restless Ones marks the first time the Heartless Bastards have had the same lineup for two albums in a row since All This Time in 2006, and the bandmembers certainly sound more comfortable and at ease with themselves than they have in a while. Lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist Erika Wennerstrom still sings like a powerhouse as she muses about making sense of life's rare peaks and many valleys, but this time she sounds more in sync with her bandmates -- Mark Nathan on guitar, Jesse Ebaugh on bass, and David Colvin on drums -- and this music has a raw immediacy the Bastards haven't matched since their first two albums. The sharp, jittery slide work on "Wind Up Bird" suggests the damaged blues fury of the Gun Club, "Black Cloud" has the decisive snap of vintage R&B, and "Into the Light" is that rarity, a widescreen power ballad that actually has the heart, soul, and riffs to not sound embarrassing in the 21st century.
Review Summary: Unbowed, unbent, unbroken.Heartless Bastards play a brand of blues-rock that sounds like it’s naturally endemic to the band’s home of Ohio. Where a band like the Black Keys takes its straightforward simplicity from the hardworking ethos of the Rust Belt, Heartless Bastards’ sound is more elemental, not so much the sweat of the people as the actual corroding rust itself, heavy and implacable. That sound translated better on the band’s mid-00s offerings than latter, more contemplative efforts, but with Restless Ones the band has kept the same lineup together since 2012’s Arrow, the first time this has happened since 2006.
Heartless Bastards are an earthy band. That goes beyond their album titled The Mountain or their buffalo-centric art work. The Ohioan garage rockers have always played their blues with a strange sort of tectonic power, with a love for rumbling guitars aided by Erika Wennerstrom’s mystic croon. Restless Ones finds the band infusing their sound with another source of energy: all of their solos and fiery choruses seem solar powered, and the dusty, anthemic and arena ready record is all the better for it.
When it comes to live shows, Heartless Bastards bassist Jesse Ebaugh has said he wants nothing less than what he calls "rock'n'roll communion." With their fifth studio album, it's safe to bet that the quartet will have little trouble eliciting an energy of '70s-era Thin Lizzy proportions. Erika Wennerstrom has always possessed the kind of powerhouse vocals that electrify a crowd, and the atmosphere of Restless Ones lives up to that intensity. Heartless Bastards' previous releases tackled classic country themes—lonesomeness, wanderlust—and their new record is no different.
Urgency has long been essential to Heartless Bastards. The Austin-via-Cincinnati outfit’s early riff-rock days thrived on capturing it both sonically and emotionally. With 2012’s Arrow, they started to set down a more introspective path. Now they’ve slowed down the grind even more with their fifth album, appropriately titled Restless Ones.
The fifth album from Ohio-to-Texas transfers Heartless Bastards is the expected serving of blues-flavored garage rock, characterized by crunchy guitar tones and Erika Wennerstrom's big, impassioned vocals. The LP feels more casual than previous ones (single "Black Cloud" features one such seemingly easygoing melody), but that's by no means a negative. (www.theheartlessbastards.com) .
The only thing regrettable about the Heartless Bastards might be their name, an option offered as an answer to a multiple-choice trivia question about Tom Petty’s band; in truth, these Bastards are anything but heartless. Singer Erika Wennerstrom’s old-school, heart-on-sleeve vocals are in full bloom on this fifth album by the Austin-based, Cincinnati-bred group. She sounds like an edgier, harder-rocking Lucinda Williams who is continually fighting through angst, too spirited to succumb.
Restless Ones continues the Heartless Bastards' quest never to repeat themselves. Arrow in 2012 expanded the Austinites' reach and reputation with rock hard grooves, departing from introspective nature and country influences on 2009's The Mountain. The psychedelic blues overload of Restless Ones opener "Wind Up Bird" immediately sets the band's fifth LP on a new path.
Henry Yates on new releases from Sonny Landreth, Royal Southern Brotherhood, Datura 4, The Kentucky Headhunters and Heartless Bastards Sonny Landreth: Bound By The Blues ADVERTISINGinRead invented by Teads After 2012’s genre-straddling Elemental Journey – an instrumental fusion complete with bells, whistles and kitchen sink – this album finds Landreth sticking a rusty pin in his own grandiosity and returning to his creative ground zero. Partly, explains the professorial southerner, this is down to badgering from the fans – “They keep asking me: ‘When are you going to do another blues album?’” – but he’s patently enjoying the homecoming. Landreth’s trump card remains that jaw-dropping slide-guitar technique.
With their fifth album, Cincinnati’s Heartless Bastards have lost none of the grit that got the garage rockers noticed in the first place nearly a decade ago. Restless Ones, coming in at just ten songs, is a tight set of songs that vacillates between the gritty, with heavily distorted guitars on the album opener “Wind Up Bird,” to the subtle, like the country-infused “Hi Line.” In between is mix of melancholy and charging ambition. Tacked on toward the end is the optimistic foot stomper “Into the Light,” a song that perfectly illustrates the bands diversity on Restless Ones.