My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Sweethearts of the Rodeo – ‘Restless’

It’s been sixteen years since we last heard any new music from the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, but the sister duo of Kristine Arnold and Janis Oliver is finally back with a brand new collection of songs that was well worth the wait. The independently released project was co-produced by the Sweethearts with Dave Pomeroy.

Less rootsy than the duo’s two albums released by Sugar Hill in the 90s, Restless is more reminiscent of the country rock they were known for during their commercial heydey on Columbia Records. It is, however, a quieter and more low-key album than their 80s work.

Don’t expect any chart hits from this collection, but that is no reflection on the album’s quality; simply put, it knocks the socks off almost anything else Nashville has to offer these days. Their harmonies sound as fresh as they did when they first hit the charts in 1986 with “Hey Doll Baby”. The album offers up a healthy dose of country rock and rockabilly with songs such as “You Can’t Hold Me Back”, “Too Little Too Late”, “Gone to Kentucky” and the excellent title track. It takes a more soulful turn with “What Does Love Mean To You” and “Maybe Tonight”, which Janis wrote with ex-husband Vince Gill. His version, which I like better, appears on his 1994 album When Love Finds You.

There isn’t a bad song on this album, so it’s hard to pick favorites, but if pressed I would likely choose “Hopeless Rose”, a story about a “whiskey fool” in love with a lady of easy virtue, which was written by Jon Randall, Jessi Alexander and Ashley Monroe. The closing track, a remake of The Youngbloods’ 1969 pop hit “Get Together” is surprisingly effective.

As good as it is to hear from these old favorites again, an element of frustration sets in while listening to Restless. While it’s unrealistic to expect that the Sweethearts of the Rodeo would ever be able to stage a huge commercial comeback, it does make one wonder why today’s headliners seem incapable of finding material this good. I’ve always liked the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, but I never expected that they would release one of the year’s best albums, but that is exactly what they’ve done. I hope we hear from them again long before another sixteen years passes by.

Restless is primarily available as a digital download, but CD copies are available from the Sweethearts’ website. Buy a copy; this album deserves the support of every fan who remembers when good country music could be taken for granted.

Grade: A

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