Gospel, apparently, is in this year. Following the trend of Courtney Marie Andrews, Drew Holcomb, Imelda May and Jarrod Dickenson, Thomas Wynn has come over all New Orleans for his latest release. To be fair, the Orlando native has always worn his hymnal influences on his sleeve. He began playing guitar in church, whilst vocalist sister Oliva sang in the choir. But for third album ‘Wade Waist Deep’ Wynn and his Believers have ratcheted the soul up a few notches. Blending the punch of gritty rock with the raw uplifting triumph of gospel, their sound has bloomed as mighty as the Mississippi.
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From start to finish, the album is a powerhouse. Album opener ‘Man Out Of Time’ begins with a choral, quasi-native American chant, before breaking into the bayou-bred bluesiness that has always been the band’s rudder. The title track ‘Wade Waist Deep’ follows, like a country-tinged baptism presided over by The Allman Brothers, and the Springsteenian desperation of ‘Heartbreak Alley’ comes third. These three tracks act like signposts. Easing you into album’s tripartite guiding stars of heavy blues, upbeat country and impassioned soul. A grog with enough zest to knock your boots off, and make you scream hallelujah from the gutter.
If the album is power, then Thomas Wynn’s vocals are the glory. Splitting the difference between Chris Stapleton and Al Green (deep into his padre stage), Wynn sings like he’s trying to burst out of the speakers, grab you by the shoulders and shake you into submission. At his side the whole way is Olivia Wynn, with harmonies that soar right up to the pearly gates. ‘I Don’t Regret’ shows the pair at their finest, with the kind of flawless interlocked vocals normally reserved for the roof-smashing finales of Broadway musicals.
That’s not to say the rest of the sound is just scaffolding. Wynn’s guitar strong-arms the album together like an over-muscled alligator, though can still ring delicate on the softer ‘Feel The Good’. And as for The Believers, they pull their fair share of the weight. A gold sticker goes to drummer Ryan Miranda, who’s sluggish when he needs to be and downright unstoppable on the albums heaviest offering, the earth-shaking ‘You Can’t Hurt Me’. Chris Antemesaris is also essential to their sound. His electric harmonica work, most prominent on the blues-tastic ‘Burn As One’, cuts through the album like a righteous rust-caked razor.
It’s the passion that makes this album stay with you. Worship music it is not, but it manages to capture the same spiritual grandeur and unfettered emotion that defines southern gospel recordings. Teamed with a tight-as-leather musical unit and some of the thickest guitar tones this side of Nashville, what you get is a record that plays your soul like a squeezebox. Equally at home in the peace of a Louisiana church, or the breath-taking vastness of Monument Valley.