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Posted on March 25th, 2015 (10:00 am) by Casey Bauer

Deliverance is an album decoded entirely by its name and loved through one solid listen. Carefully crafted, River City Extension's latest is passionate and expansive, and they show us that despite hardships, they're completely in control of their sound and future. And it's looking pretty bright.

Given the circumstances, Deliverance is a record that probably shouldn't have been. As a band that was once eight members, a drastic and discouraging downsize right before recording started cast a heavy shadow on the band's progress. The group recruited drummer Steve Tambone, but he sadly passed away unexpectedly just after the album was finished. Needless to say, River City Extension has had its fair share of emotional blows in the past year, yet the band has quickly adapted to their misfortunes and bounced back with a significant change in style and approach. With the help of guitarist John Muccino, a string quartet accompaniment was written into the album, evoking dramatic highs and lows throughout.

As the title suggests, Deliverance is about an emancipation of sorts. It is about an idea of letting go that is expanded on in two segments on the record. The band explains, “the first half is about conquering self-doubt through self-worth...the second half talks about whether it's worth it to conquer doubt at all.” The dividing line is the track “I Wouldn't Worry,” and it perfectly sets the listener up for a change in pace and mindset between a spirited segment and a more moody one. Singer Joe Michelini vocalizes in a dramatic, semi-whiney croon that tiptoes between enticing and irritating, yet the mellow, jazzy background brings an unusual harmony to it all. Just when we're ready to move on, however, a dissonant guitar interrupts the flow and suddenly, a violin, drum set, and female vocalist join in on what is both an unexpected, but delightfully chaotic climax.

Everything preceding this song is upbeat and moving, a side effect of the band's beautifully arranged strings that give a very cinematic feel to them. “Somethings Gotta Give,” the record's opening track, is a prime example of this. A string quartet rises and falls over the top of a driving rock beat as we fall witness to clever lyrics such as “Somebody always wants their money back / Just when the right thing wasn't exciting.” The string arrangement, along with sporadic quirks that pop and fizzle (like the jam band ending from out of left field), make the song something memorable and worthy of replays.

“Ohio” is similarly engaging, and we can't help but picture an introspective driver zipping down a lonesome highway. What starts as acoustic, builds into a pop-rock chorus that satisfies a much peppier mood and invites us to sing along. The clip-clop of distant woodblocks and a fake ending give the track a much appreciated quirky twist among a song that was getting to be just a bit too rhymey.

The second half of the album strays from the poppiness of its predecessors and explores styles that surprise from track to track. “Deliverance Pt. 2” marks a drastic genre change, initially sounding like an interlude, but soon resembling a country ballad as Michelini, the quartet, an acoustic guitar, and chirping birds are the only voices we hear. Strings swoon and pluck, and we wonder if it's even the same band, while the funkiness of “Girls” reassures us that it is. “Vox Populi” and “I'm Not There” wrap the album up in moody boxes, the former being quite a surprise, not unlike “I Wouldn't Worry.” The track is dramatic and odd, starting barely decipherable and tempting our fingers to hit the “next” button. We find that patience is indeed a virtue, however, and a driving piano alongside a spacey guitar convince us to stick around a bit longer.

What gives River City Extension a truly unique sound is that, underneath their polished surface, they're not afraid to take a few risks and do some things incorrectly. We say “incorrectly,” because Muccino even sums up his guitar work as a “good mix of right and wrong notes.” Sure enough, if you listen hard you can hear a few moments from various sections where something will sound just slightly out of tune or misplaced. They never come across as awkward or inappropriate, but these gambles pay off and, in turn, make up for some of the more predictable, rounded aspects of the album. As a result, Deliverance is a record that may get played out eventually, but in the mean time, each listen is a rewarding one.

Track List:

  1. Something’s Got Give
  2. Man Of Conviction
  3. Ohio
  4. Indian Summer
  5. I Wouldn’t Worry
  6. Deliverance Pt. 2
  7. Girls
  8. White Blackmail
  9. Vox Populi
  10. I’m Not There
River City Extension - Deliverance Review
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

76 / 100
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