REVIEW: The Sapwoods – Peaks and Valleys

THE SAPWOODS
Peaks and Valleys
Independent release, 2014

I’m late in getting a review out for The Sapwoods’ new album, Peaks and Valleys.  I’ve listened to it more than a few times since their CD release show earlier this month.

The band’s previous album (Electric Glow, 2012), featured a different rhythm section.  I’ve seen the group perform four times this year and I immediately noticed the slower tempos found on some of the CD tracks when compared to their faster live performances.  I imagine this may be partly due to a new, young rhythm section experiencing their first encounters with recording sessions, and gradually gaining more experience and confidence as they go along.  There seem to be a few small rhythm mistakes in the early tracks, and possibly a loose snare on some tracks, but the new members play well overall.  Derrick Cook is a high-energy drummer who’s a lot of fun to watch at the live shows, and the CD fortunately features a lot of his great fills.  Brian Speer keeps things pretty simple on the bass…for now.  Miranda Peyton is the band’s new secret weapon, adding her backing vocals as well as some fitting keyboard tones.

Original members Justin Swafford (lead vocals, guitar, songwriter) and David Suchan (lead guitar) both make great guitar sounds throughout the album, and Justin’s singing is strong and enjoyable.  The group’s Bandcamp site includes the lyrics to all tracks, which is helpful to people like me who are terrible at deciphering lyrics.

The CD starts out with “Relax, Be Real, Be Yourself”, which is an energetic, catchy rocker.  “Let Go” has a fun House of Large Sizes riff-rock thing going on.  The closing track, “Steady on the Breaks”, has some great guitar sounds at the end (the song grew on me).

Album highlights “Serve You Right” and “The Offer” provide different extremes of alt-country (the band once again does this genre very well).  Another standout track, “Perdition”, is The Sapwoods’ version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”…it’s a beautiful soundscape while it lasts.  I also enjoy the dirty rock riffs found in the second-to-last track, “Same Old Reeling”.

Even the songs that didn’t win me over have some enjoyable elements (Peyton’s keyboards in “Drifters”, the dual guitar solo in “Two Wounded Soldiers” and Suchan’s countrified lead guitar work in “Back to You”).  There’s a good amount of diversity within the album to keep you listening.

I encourage you to check out Peaks and Valleys (here!) and go hear The Sapwoods live when they come to play in your town.

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