Here's a little Saturday afternoon mini-review of one of my favorite albums of the year. Please check out the fine new CD by The Lonetones.
The Lonetones’ new album, “Dumbing It All Down,” does anything but simplify. Quite the opposite, the album is an exploration and celebration of nuance at a time we’ve seemingly lost our ability to see it. Lyrically, the theme plays out from the opening lines of the title track, “Same old fantasies everybody reads, there’s only saints and sinners and everbody’s fooled.” Reading like a commentary on 2017 America, the album draws subject matter from both the public and the personal with references, such as a song based on Walter Cronkite’s two-dimensional 1963 portrait of Appalachia, to historical events and timeless themes that read like today’s newspaper.
Musically, the album is perhaps the group’s most complex. From its opening banjo notes, through quiet ballads, much will seem familiar to long-time fans, but the disc contains musical surprises at every turn, adding layers to the group’s previous recordings. With backing from excellent musicians such as Jamie Cook on drums and Cecilia Wright Miller on cello and the nice addition of Will Boyd’s saxophone, the album has an added urgency throughout with unexpected interjections by horns, strings, double banjo parts or the sweeping pop sound of keyboards that lifts out of the dreamy intro to, “Of Course.”
The excellent song writing, vocals and instrumentation that have marked previous Lonetones releases are brought, on “Dumbing It All Down,” to another level. It’s tighter while being more expansive, focuses on the loss of nuance while delivering it in every direction and sends the group’s musical message to new heights. Here’s hoping it reaches the fans it deserves.