October catches the Cromwell range of view fully engaged on new recorded works from artists either previously featured here, or first time entries to this site. All of this new material show musicians taking their creative ideas - much of it developed by way of live show performances over the years, and forging it all into high-quality studio recordings. Each artist exhibits true emotional commitment to their respective style of music.
Album opener (and the record's first single) “Smile” comes on intimately at first – with Ronnie's vocals out front asking an existential question “and I wonder how you ever got this far – with a feeling that just won't shake.” The accompanying acoustic guitar is warm and vibrant, as Molly comes in with matching harmonies on the following lines. The rest of the band thunders in and the rootsy, blues/folk/rock progression swings into full motion. This easy groove vibe immediately brings to mind what a guy like Izzy Stradlin brought to GNR as well as his own solo work. Which in turn points back to The Rolling Stones “Exile On Main Street.” The chorus here is simple and to the point – “I wanna smile like you” celebrates the best things in life – all against a backdrop of tight, rhythmic accents and snaking slide guitar.
Follow-up cut “MMIW” sets everything in motion with chunky electric guitar and syncopated deep tom tom percussion. Ronnie sings out with a more passionate, soulful edge right from the start here. Depicting a situation of imbalance and potential negative results, the repeated hook line “heartbeat and a look away” is delivered with precise harmonies and slide guitar. Guest vocalist “Quiltman” adds authentic chanting for a crucial passage, while a blistering guitar solo brings the track around to the final chorus. Third track “Engine” builds off a bright, chiming 12-string guitar instantly laying down a descending progression. Soaring solo guitar lines create a lightness as bass guitar and drums power along this fragmented 1-2 time signature. Full harmony vocals with Molly slightly out front create an enchanting overall feel as the song continues to unfold. There are a number of curiously mysterious sounds emerging underneath, with one approximating a diving down bass texture. Special props must be given to slide guitarist Troy, who's virtuoso playing here is equivalent to David Lindley's outstanding work on so many of Jackson Browne's albums. The overall combination of Ronnie's acoustic and Troy's various electrics are matched brilliantly with Molly and Ronnie's equally impressive star-turn harmony vocals.
Opening once again with vibrant finger-picked acoustic guitar (a Martin HD-28 dubbed “Lines” we learn via recent social media post), “On the Lam” embraces that particular form of escape. “I got to find a way – feed my dog if you would” (ah, that's sweet) “and tell 'em I'll be back some day.” Snare drum propulsion surges forward, approximating the stuttering rhythm of a railroad car. Deep twang guitar doubles down on the southwestern vibe pulsing through these grooves. Poetic lines roll smoothly throughout, like “I've been running that line – since before the railway,” and “you know the land is forever, I could just jump off this car – and go straight to the sky.” A honey-textured guitar solo creates additional melody and motion to this forward chugging train.
“Worth the Weight” adds a soulful feel to those glistening acoustic guitars via a rich extended note undertone and higher pitch-bended fills on top. There's a subtle gospel element to Ronnie and Molly's harmonies here, embracing the spirt of a song like The Black Crowes “She Talks To Angels.” “Bring it down on me, so the truth can mean, what we want it to be” serves as lyrical entry not only to this song's title, but the overall album title too. “And we dream – of a time not so weathered” . . . ultimately concluding “it doesn't matter anyway – let it rain, I'll feel the pain.” Emotionally powerful moments continue to unfold, as on the lyrical refrain “And you can cry like you used to, 'cause it all makes sense. It's not a reason to falter,” (with Molly going solo here) “just a reason to try again.” Repeated passes through the title line creates a sense of duality on the word “weight” whereby “wait” could fit in just as well. An impassioned buildup to the songs ending (Ronnie and Molly's expressive vocals coupled with sinewy guitar figures) wraps up with a left-in studio voice definitively stating “there we go.”
It's a full on bluesy-rock stomp chugging out of the Rolling Stones influenced “Give All.” Ronnie and Molly's cascading vocals on lines “I heaaarrrrr youuuuuuu” joyously recreate the extended phrasing on their psychedelic 1967 release “We Love You.” Even the guitars here emulate the electrified rhythms of Keith along with the slide work Ry Cooder added to that band on their classic albums at that time. One often felt that Aerosmith's “Sweet Emotion” also looked to that original Stones track as point of reference on their hit song. The So Lows keep things closer to rootsy than anything really “psych” - other than the overall “cosmic” feel of everything they seems to put in all their songs. As this track progresses, Ronnie and Molly's tandem vocals push the feel closer to the swampy blue-eyed soul of Delaney and Bonnie. “Lay Down Misfortune” rolls out in three-quarter time, merging Country-Western conviction with a Folk-Troubadour narrative. Sounding like Greg Allman's Georgia-Country-Soul at points, a subtle change occurs in chords and vocal phrasing suggesting the eccentric jazzy folk-pop of underground legend Nick Drake. With those whimsical qualities emerging at times, a steady pedal steel-like guitar solidifies a country-home feel.
Female vocals take center stage with Molly's solo lead vocal turn on “Permanent Horizon.” Once again, an easy-groove Stones-like feel is established with electric guitars and more active, busy-loose drumming. “Sometimes we all need a place to go,” is how the smoky, emotive vocals begin. “What if I can't get it right?” she asks – quickly followed by “what if - it get's worse when I try” (with those 5 words emphasized by bass guitar and drum punctuation). While the repeated title line chorus is smooth and straightforward, a testifying conversational style on subsequent lines adds an intimate charm to the delivery.
“Let Go, My Atlas” dips back into three-quarter time for this acoustic guitar driven, reflective track. Ronnie's voice is fully out front, with Molly's rich harmonies adding depth to the plaintive melody. A variety of guitar fills and textures add color and motion to a song without any drums or bass. This allows focus on voice and lyrics contemplating mysteries of the universe. “In a way I feel I've seen myself in you – before. Rising with the moon – holding on. Trying to make sense of it all,” is how one passage goes. An unusual wind-rushing texture emerges underneath for the songs final :45 seconds, leading out to an ending where that is the only sound remaining.
“Means a Lot” has Molly taking the lead vocals once again, for the final and longest cut on the album. Clocking in at 6:46, it serves an an epic and fitting close to everything leading up to it. While introductory guitar chords and wistful extended notes establish an initial melancholy feeling, a sense of hope develops. “If you really wanna know – we can do time together,” leads sincerely to “thanks so much, it means a lot.” A series of elegant guitar interludes surface in places, as one might expect from a song of this length. Thoughtful questions crop up, with lyrics asking “does anyone see – how I see – how everything connects?” Contemplating that universality progresses to a realization of “how everything reflects.” As the track builds instrumental momentum, mysterious spoken-word elements permeate the undercurrent. The intensity of the band rises, the tempo quickens and drives everything to a dynamic conclusion.