The Idaho-born Braun brothers are such a gift to music. I’ve always been a huge fan of Reckless Kelly (led by Willy Braun), but Micky & The Motorcars never really stood out to me. Most of their songs tended to be formulaic and forgettable, which was the case on their 2011 release Raise My Glass. I’m happy to say their latest album is a wonderful surprise that has far surpassed my expectations.
One of the things that makes Hearts From Above so powerful is its back story. It comes on the heels of former bass player Mark McCoy’s tragic death on a 2012 rafting trip, and Micky Braun says the title is an acknowledgement of him and other friends the band has lost in recent years. He came up with the title track after a show at the Continental Club, right down the street on South Congress.
You never know what to expect with lineup changes, but the Motorcars seem to have kept their core sound intact. Like Reckless Kelly, they’re country rockers who deliver driving back beats and hard-hitting vocals. You’d be hard-pressed to keep your foot still on almost any of these tracks. Willy Braun deserves tremendous credit as the producer on this record for incorporating steel guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and piano to subtly enhance a bunch of the songs. The only thing I would have done differently is slowed down a few songs where the lyrics feel hurried.
Let’s also take a moment to admire the album cover. Willy has an incredible eye for these things, boasting a Grammy for Long Night Moon and a nomination for Good Luck & True Love for Best Recording Package. Somewhere in Time ain’t bad, either. It’s nice to see Micky & The Motorcars getting artwork that’s on par with the album’s musical quality.
Picking a favorite song from Hearts From Above is challenging because of its depth. One standout track is “From Where the Sun Now Stands,” featuring a beautiful acoustic/fiddle/piano arrangement that instantly creates a solemn mood (think “God Forsaken Town”). Another highlight is the rocker “Hurt,” where the lead guitarist really gets to let loose, flanked by a howling organ and Braun’s palpable angst. Aside from being a touching love story, the fiddle and vocals really shine on “Once In a Lifetime Girl.”
I would start with those if you’re new to Micky & The Motorcars, but I highly recommend experiencing the full album a few times through.
Rating: 4.25 / 5
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