With the current prominence of such groups as Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and The Band Perry, country-pop trios seem to be Nashville’s latest trend. As a result, my impulse reaction upon receiving the self-titled debut album from Edens Edge was skepticism tinged with wariness and topped with an overdramatic eye-roll. Here comes another flock of beautiful people parading onto the music scene three-by-three like animals from the ark (…had Noah added a third wheel).
Granted, I was already a fan of the popular single, “Amen.” Give me a sassy heroine running her man’s misguided love-interest out of town with the sweetness only a Southern belle can muster and, bless your heart, I’m on board. My doubts rested in the ability for the rest of the album to live up to the charmingly lighthearted single.
I couldn’t have had a more mistaken first impression. Immediately after popping the disc into my computer, Hannah Blaylock’s saccharine melody hit me like a breath of fresh air, amid just enough instrumental accompaniment from Cherill Green and Dean Berner to support without overpowering. The all-too-relatable lyrics of “Swinging Door” flow from the Arkansas-bred songstress with an elegant, refined ease, the perfect mixture of vulnerability and strength, your train don’t stop here anymore/ I ain’t your gas-up rest stop, swinging door/ you can’t just walk in, walk out, like so many times before/ I ain’t your swinging door.
“Skinny Dippin” is a rebound from the preceding ultimatum – fun, flirtatious, and ultimately rather meaningless. It’ll lighten your mood and make you dance, but it’s nothing to bring home to momma. The same can’t be said for “Too Good to be True.”. Blaylock’s voice takes on a harder, more vocally powerful sound, reminiscent of Carrie Underwood. Green and Berner take the opportunity to depart from their traditionally soft, albeit beautiful, instrumentals and inject a great deal of energy and power into the song.
With “The Last Supper,” the tone takes an unexpected shift once more. The powerful, emotional ballad depicts a fraying relationship as the pair faces their final night together, their metaphorical last supper. The melancholy tone continues with the acoustic, heart-felt “Feels So Real,” Baby you’re gone/ but you’re like the wind/ out of the calm you come back again/ rattling the windows of my painted-shut heart.
Just like that, the energy picks pack up with one of my personal favorites, “Who Am I Drinking Tonight,” Are you Are you a Kenny tequila, Buffet margarita/ Or an Alan Jackson hurricane?/ Are you a good time, flask of moonshine/ Going George Strait to my brain? Naturally, the playfulness doesn’t last long before transitioning to “Liar” – the hopeless plea of a woman watching her best friend, whom she secretly loves, wed another woman – I helped you find a diamond ring/ I helped you try it on and everything/ tomorrow you’ll both say I do/ and I’ll be there ’cause that’s what best friends do. Blaylock sings with such passion and vulnerability, one can’t help but get emotionally entangled in the heart-wrenching story.
The album finishes with two tracks that play out much differently than anything heard in the previous eight. Childhood memories are the focus of the sweet, sincere “Cherry Pie,” showing the depth to which the group considers their roots a factor in their lives and accomplishments. Last, but far from least, is the a cappella “Christ Alone.” The finale allows each member of the trio the opportunity to showcase their vocal strength, layers of harmonies beautifully intertwining within one another. The stunning gospel piece is appropriately placed, as nothing else could have found the depth and grace to follow it.
Three additional acoustic tracks are available on the deluxe edition offered by Cracker Barrel. Upbeat, bluegrassy and entirely catchy, “Roots” alone is worth the splurge. “Little Bird” and “Wherever I Go” are two more shining examples of Blaylock’s vocal prowess, supported by the equally talented Green and Berner.
Combining classic, folk-inspired country with equal parts contemporary, country-pop influences, the freshman album emerges more as a collection of stories than songs. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…you’ll want to slap the man that broke your heart. Overall, the debut album lays a solid foundation for what will prove to be a very promising future for Edens Edge.