My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Edens Edge – ‘Edens Edge’

New Big Machine trio Edens Edge is built around the distinctive piercing twangy lead vocals of Hannah Blaylock. The production, helmed by Mark Bright and Dann Huff, is unfortunately cluttered with too much going on most of the time. The talented band members play a variety of instruments (Cherrill Green comes from a bluegrass background, and plays mandolin and banjo, while Dean Berners plays dobro and guitar), and a more natural, less processed, sound woul allow them to shine more.

The band’s debut single ‘Amen’ (a top 20 hit last year) is a pretty good song gloating over the departure of a romantic rival, and is one of the few tracks to successfully balance country radio’s demands of a glossy finish with an attractive organic yet contemporary country feel. It is one of three songs here co-written by Hannah, this one with Skip Black, Catt Gravitt and Gerald O’Brien. Danny Myrick teamed up with Blaylock and Gravitt for ‘Last Supper’, a rather intense pop country ballad about an impending breakup. It’s heavily over-produced, but is a good song underneath, with some interesting lyrical choices. I quite liked the quirky ‘Who Am I Drinking Tonight’, which was written by Hannah with Laura Veltz, comparing the guys she meets and their choice of drinks to country stars, but I would have preferred a significantly scaled-back production

‘Skinny Dippin’ (not the Whitney Duncan song but a new one written by Veltz, band member Dean Berners, and Vince Melamed) is a self-conscious attempt at playful charm which more or less comes off. Remniscent of the Pistol Annies, the first half of the song is quite catchy with a bright acoustic arrangement, but Huff and Bright can’t resist the temptation of throwing in weird processing on the backing vocals and too much sound in general, and it all derails. This trio also contributed ‘Cherry Pie’, a very cluttered sounding number looking back at a happy childhood, which would be a lot better with half the amount of instrumentation or less. Cherry Pie, incidentally, is the name of Hannah’s real life childhood pony. As it is largely unlistenable after the low-key and pretty first verse and the sweet lyrics and genuine emotion are crushed by an unnecessary wall of sound.

Veltz wrote the album’s best track, the pain-filled ‘Liar’, with Andy Stochansky. The narrator is hiding her pain as the man she loves, and who thinks of her as just a friend, is set to marry another girl. She pretends to be happy for him, but admits in the song she is “the biggest liar in the world”. Production here is for once restrained enough to let the song breathe. The narrator’s heartbreak is very convincingly conveyed by Blaylock’s vulnerable vocal, with the unfortunate girl even having to help choose and try on the engagement ring.

A close second is ‘Swingin’ Door’ (written by Terry Clayton, Brett James and underrated singer-songwriter Ashley Monroe), which was cut by the Australian Catherine Britt on her outstanding RCA album a few years back. Hannah’s version sounds a little less fragile, as she invests a lot of determination rejecting the lover trying to use her. It’s an excellent song, and a thoroughly enjoyable track.

‘Too Good To Be True’, written by pop-country stalwarts Hillary Lindsey, Gordie Sampson and Troy Verges, sounds just like a Carrie Underwood track, with belted-out, almost shouted, vocals, frequent nonsensical syllables, lots of attitude but not much melody, and no subtlety. Naturally it’s the current single. ‘Feels So Real’, another Lindsey song (written with Angelo and Tia Sillers), is more interesting, but very poppy sounding and oversung.

The acappella ‘For Christ Alone’ (written by the band’s mentor Steve Smith, who brought them together in their home state of Arkansas) is one of the few occasions where the vocals of Hannah Blaylock’s bandmates Dean Berner and Cherrill Green are really distinct as they don’t have to fight against the overwhelming backing, and although it sounds like a hymn with choral styled harmonies rather than a country song, it really shows how ill-served the group has been by their producers.

Edens Edge is a group with a lot of potential, but they have compromised too much to fit into country radio for this album to fulfil it for me.

Grade: B

5 responses to “Album Review: Edens Edge – ‘Edens Edge’

  1. Jonathan Pappalardo July 5, 2012 at 10:55 am

    I very much dislike “Too Good To Be True” but I loved “Amen.” Great review.

  2. Carl July 6, 2012 at 1:28 am

    Youre one of those reviewers who tries to make themselves seem smarter by being overly critical, right?

    Edens Edge has come out with one of the more natural, unprocessed sounding country albums of the last few years, and yet it’s “overproduced” and too poppy sounding to you. By scanning your blog, if it was recorded after 1980, it’s gonna be overproduced to you.

  3. Ben Foster July 6, 2012 at 9:48 am

    The only tracks that really struck me as being overproduced were “Cherry Pie” and “Who Am I Drinking Tonight.” I thought the project as a whole was fairly restrained for a mainstream project being pushed to radio, and there are a few excellent songs. Nonetheless, I do agree on what a shame it is that country radio has boxed its acts in such that talented artists feel they have to gloss and polish everything up in order to be heard.

  4. J.R. Journey July 6, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I haven’t had a chance to really digest this album, but I did purchase it on the strength of the lead single. “Who Am I Drinking Tonight?” was the first track to jump out at me. It’s clever and catchy and I’d love to hear it on the radio soon. I definitely agree these kids have a lot of potential. I just hope Nashville doesn’t whitewash them into a Lady A clone.

  5. AnneLou July 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    I LOVED SEEING Eden’s Edge on tour with Rascal Flatts two weeks ago! What a great show they put on! Love the album and can’t wait for more!

    Rascal Flatts is nominated for the Country Group Award for the 2012 Teen Choice Awards! If you are between the ages of 13 and 19 be sure you cast your vote daily until the 21st of July! teenchoiceawards dot com

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