Nashville-based band Natural Child shows some serious growth with their latest release, Dancin’ With Wolves. The new album sees the typically gritty blues rockers exploring a new genre with maturity and restraint. Natural Child has almost created a through and through country record.
Natural Child’s evolution is nothing short of unbelievable. Their earliest releases are best classified as bluesy punk rock, typical of young bands getting their first taste of rock and roll and finding their voice. Over time, their sound moved away from punk, towards the intentionally sloppy blues-rock popularized by the Rolling Stones. It is easy to imagine the band stopping their development at this point, because Natural Child seemed to have found their voice.
Dancin’ With Wolves proves that Natural Child is not done unfolding. The band is still willing to take risks and explore new avenues of expression with their music, and their next venture is a new, rustic genre. They’re clearly inspired by their hometown, as this album is steeped in Nashville. Echoes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings can be heard throughout the record, and every distinctive lick on the pedal steel guitar evokes Graham Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers. But while Natural Child has emulated some of country’s greats in this album, they’ve managed to preserve the trademark grittiness that put them on the map in the first place.
The album kicks off with “Out In The Country,” a song that not so subtly announces the record’s agrestic intentions. The bluesy lead track provides the listener with a familiar starting point while also teasing the country to come with prominent pedal steel and lyrical hints.
Album highlights include the El Paso inspired “Bailando Con Lobos” and the fun, jukebox worthy sing-along “Saturday Night Blues.” “Firewater Liquor” proves that Natural Child doesn’t have to sacrifice their rough-around-the-edges aesthetic to explore the country genre. “I’m Gonna Try” is typical of the sad, mournful, “lost my girl” country stereotype. This Texas-born Dead Head couldn’t help but laugh at and relate to “Country Hippie Blues.”
The most impressive thing about this album is how seamlessly Natural Child integrated both a pedal steel guitarist and a keyboardist. These two instruments take center stage and soar throughout the record, providing the essential ingredients to the country sound. The fact that the three original members were willing to take a backseat on this album shows their maturity and growth. But bass, guitar, and drums still provide the engine that propels this album forward, and the two singers nail the subtle drawl necessary to sing country.
The album also lacks a cohesiveness outside of country that compels the listener to soak it in from beginning to end. A full-length listen does not leave the listener with an overarching feeling or message. Instead, after a few listens, each individual is likely to gravitate towards his or her favorite tracks.
But this does not cheapen the totality of Natural Child’s creation. Natural Child has done what few artists can – change genres. More important, they’ve done so successfully. Dancin’ With Wolves, while not perfect, is still an impressive feat for this young band.
Natural Child fans should not be so surprised with this foray into country. Look, for example, at the Rolling Stones: the British legends that Natural Child compare so favorably to made some legitimate country hits with “Dead Flowers” and “Sweet Virginia.” Natural Child can only hope to experience an evolution as complete and far reaching as that of the Stones, but they’re on the right track.
Preview Natural Child’s Dancin’ With Wolves below, and acquire the hi-fi hardcopy on vinyl, CD or cassette over at Burger Records.
Article by Ryan Riedmuller