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43 of 44 found the following review helpful:
"Outsiders" No More Aug 26, 2009
By Matthew Robbins
Things are about to get a lot bigger for the guys from Needtobreathe. They successfully avoided the dreaded "sophomore slump" with their stellar, Dove-award-nominated album, The Heat, back in 2007. Songs from that album appeared in movies, TV shows, and even on ESPN. Now, their third studio release, The Outsiders, showcases a band that has found its identity: outsiders who don't fit neatly into anyone's boxes, but can connect with most. Masterfully blending earnest lyrics with elements of southern rock and a modern rock sound all their own, Needtobreathe has produced easily their finest work to date, and possibly the best rock record of the year thus far.
Fans of The Heat will recognize all the stylistic components that made that record fantastic, but production, musicianship, and song-writing have all improved here, the result being an extremely professional-sounding record that doesn't lose the gritty, southern rock feel. The album leads off with the title track, and the acoustic-driven "Valley of Tomorrow," both of which would have fit right in on The Heat.
"Through Smoke" follows and shows the improved and diverse song-writing skills of the band. Pounding drums, along with subtle guitars and piano support the glorious vocals of Bear Rinehart as he sings of seeing truth through confusion and doubt. Rinehart has one of the best rock voices I've ever heard, and his voice sounds spectacular here. The crescendo, with group vocals and even a harmonica, is simply beautiful and leads right into the current single, "Lay `Em Down." This is straight-up southern rock, hand claps and foot stomps included.
The album hits its stride then slows things down with "Stones Under Rushing Water," as Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins joins Rinehart on a gorgeous acoustic-based song about longing for the past (Note: the deluxe version includes a video of a live acoustic version of this song and makes the deluxe version completely worth it). Rinehart's voice shines throughout the album, but even more so in this stripped down tune. The lush harmonies evoke powerful emotion and again showcase the amazing song-writing on The Outsiders.
There is honestly not a weak track on this 14-song album. Other highlights include "Prisoner," which could be off a CCR or Skynyrd album with its straight southern rock and smoking guitar solo, and "Girl Named Tennessee," an up-tempo, piano riff-driven gem. Just try to listen to either of these songs without tapping a toe or bobbing your head. "Garden" beautifully paints a picture of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the album closes with "Let Us Love," which possesses one of the most beautiful verse structures I've heard. Subtle guitar picking and piano build to a driving, group-sung chorus.
The Outsiders is an interesting title for this collection. Without trying to be everything to everyone, Needtobreathe have refused to adhere to any kind of sacred/secular label for their music, choosing instead to let the music speak for itself. They're not preaching, but they don't hide the worldview from which the music springs.
Obvious spiritual aspects are present in the lyrics, and the music itself connects with the soul at times, but this is simply solid music that reflects the artists who produced it. It will connect with believers and cynics alike, taking each of them on a beautiful musical journey. Needtobreathe may still feel like outsiders, but this album is sure to convince many to let them in to stay.
27 of 29 found the following review helpful:
Too good not to review it. Aug 30, 2009
By C. Johnson
"lover of learning"
First I need to say I am a music lover. I purchase at least one new album each week. I don't consider myself any kind of authority on what "good" music is versus "bad" music, but I love music for how it makes me feel- the beat, the lyrics, the feel, the way it challenges me or moves me. Whatever. This is the first album I have ever reviewed on amazon, and although I know music is subjective, I don't see how anyone can not like this music. Whether you listen as a Christ-follower or not (I am, my husband is not, and even he can't help toe-tapping when I've got it playing in the background), the songs are powerful, moving, and in a lot of cases, just plain fun. I should probably say that probably 90% or more of the music I purchase and listen to is NOT Christian rock- usually I am not a huge fan- too often Christian rock feels to me just not very relevant to my real day-to-day life, but this is just a fabulous blend of solid music, plus great messages. Good running music, good for inspiration, and good for just jamming in your kitchen or your car. Just solid. I just wish I could tell more people about it. I happen to own their previous album, The Heat, and I loved it, but this is beyond. Do yourself a favor and expose yourself to this band. Then share them with your friends- they'll thank you.
15 of 16 found the following review helpful:
Fantastic 3rd album Aug 25, 2009
By C. miller
These guys are just flat out good musicians and song writers. They have there own sound and style, and they OWN it. The blend southern rock, rock, piano, banjos, harmonicas, and all sorts of other musical elements into one unique sound. Not to mention the sound of the vocals is completely unique and he has his own sound that is full of passion and really draws the listener in. There first two CDs were excellent, but this one really shows there roots and you can tell this is the kind of album they have been wanting to create from day one because it resembles there amazing live show more closely than the other 2 CDs. And if you haven't seen them live, make sure you do, they are one of a few bands who actually sound much better live than there CD.
Overall, I don't have any favorites on this CD because they are seem to all be really good, but if i had to pick I'd say: The Outsiders, Through Smoke, Prisoner, and Girl Named Tennessee are a few of my standouts at this point. And only because I've had the single "Lay Em Down" a few months before the CD release and it's been played on repeat the last few months!!!
Buy this CD!
7 of 7 found the following review helpful:
Coming up for air... Aug 29, 2009
By J. Pate
This is one of those bands that I can't BELIEVE I didn't know about sooner. A friend of mine introduced me to Needtobreathe a few weeks ago with "The Heat". I bought that album, along with their first one, simply on his recommendation. I can't say I was blown away by their first album ("Daylight"), but "The Heat" was simply spectacular. After listening to that album all the way through, it became clear that I would need to get "The Outsiders" as soon as it was released.
"The Outsiders" is NOT as immediately good as "The Heat". There simply weren't any songs on "The Heat" that I didn't IMMEDIATELY love. There are a few on "The Outsiders" that I'm not too sure about yet ("Prisoner", "Hurricane", "Girl From Tennessee"), but I'm not giving up on them. These songs are a bit of a departure/experiment for this band and I think they'll become favorites after some time, but for now, they seem a little unfinished or half-realized. EVERY OTHER SONG is absolutely incredible. These songs are inspiring, fist-pumping, foot-stomping, sing-along masterpieces. I literally listened to the first track 5 times before I even got to the second one. It was just so good that I didn't want to be let down by the second song. As it turns out, I wasn't let down until "Hurricane" came on (and again, I think it's growing on me).
As a follower of Christ, it is cool to find a band that, while obviously believers, is a little less "preachy" and a little more "everyman". I feel life, struggle, hope, faith and failure in this music and I just can't stop listening to it. I think a song-by-song review is in order here:
1. The Outsiders - 5 stars - The banjo intro, followed by the hand claps, followed by the airtight rhythm section is just flat-out awesome. It's one of my favorite songs of all time already and I can't get it out of my head. There are so many ways that this song speaks to me and it will probably be on my playlist for years. It's just a perfect song. Rinehart's voice, assisted by the "choir" of the rest of the band just gives me chills. When the harmonica comes in towards the end of the song, it just soars. The last minute and a half was a bit of a cool-down, but considering the power of the song, it probably needed to cool down a bit before the next song kicked it. I didn't want it to end. But it did...
2. Valley of Tomorrow - 5 stars - I was scared when I got to track 2. How could it follow track 1? I knew within the first 15 seconds, though, that this was going to be another great song. The best way to say it is to say that these guys just know WHEN and HOW to play their instruments. This song is slower, and the highlight (to me) is the background vocals building up to the chorus (along with that bit of electric guitar). I think it captures majesty and mystery and the line, "when the daylight breaks through the buildings of Chicago" is just cool. The drums are perfect in the end...Again, this song kind of scared me because it shifted the album into a gear that I didn't think it could maintain...
3. Through Smoke - 5 stars - wow. This song gave me chills. The accordion/piano intro was different and familiar at the same time and when the drums and bass kick in and Rinehart sings the phrase "through smoke", it's just big. This song is a question. It's a prayer, a plea and a hopeful reminder that God sees through all of our doubts and fears and that no matter how confused we get, He still sees our hearts. Again, the harmonica is used perfectly and even though this is still a slower song, it feels filled with life, energy and hope. It leads seamlessly into...
4. Lay 'Em Down - 5 stars - from the Johnny Cash-inspired, foot-stomping intro to the everyman lyrics, this song is just good. It is a mid-tempo, organ-tinged, southern-rock, gospel-flavored, hand-clapper. Needtobreathe doesn't play a lot of guitar solos, but when they play something, it's helpful and contributes hugely to the song. I think this is their lead single and although I would've picked another song, this one is still great. At this point in the album, I felt like I got my money's worth, whether any of the other songs were good or not. The rest is just gravy...and there's a LOT of gravy left to go...
5. What You've Done To Me - 4 stars - This is where the album "settles down" a little bit and gets into a good groove. This is where it started to feel like I was going to get another album like "The Heat". This song isn't anything as special as the first three songs on the album, but it's really good. The guitars are more prominent in this song, with a little less emphasis on the banjo/harmonica/organ influence, which is a nice break and generally made for a great "rock" song. I like the "choir" at the end of the song and I thought it was subtle enough to not overwhelm the song.
6. Hurricane - 3 stars - I really liked the beginning of this song, especially the instruments. It was different, technically good and seemed to breathe some fresh air into the album. However, when the bridge came, I found myself a bit disappointed. I just don't think this song goes anywhere special. It isn't inspiring, anthemic or poignant to me. It isn't a bad song...in fact, it's very good...it just has trouble competing with the rest of this album. I think it will grow on me, but it will never be a favorite. The latter part of the song tries to be inspiring, but for me, it was just too late. I never bought into the melody of the chorus. I was sure hoping that the next song would pick up the slack...
7. These Hard Times - 5 stars - Great recovery, guys. Within the first few seconds, I knew we were back on track. Those drums are just TOO good. The vocals on this song are great. It's a great, soaring mix of lead and background vocals and the music just FITS. They add just enough "flare" to the song as it builds to add excitement and energy, but it never gets too big for itself. This song brings the album back to the hopeful, encouraging, inspiring side of Needtobreathe...it's really their bread and butter. Really, there haven't been any "fast" songs to this point, but this band kind of makes you forget what "fast" and "slow" mean...
8. Stones Under Rushing Water - 3 stars - Don't misunderstand, this is a beautiful song, but I wasn't quite ready for the "slow jam" at track #8. I would've put this one more towards the end of the album, just to keep things moving. I didn't really need to hear another singer, although her voice suits the song. I guess I just didn't expect this song. I think it will mean more to me later on, especially in my marriage, but it felt forced into the middle of an otherwise upbeat collection of songs. The next song was pretty important, in my opinion. Would we pick up the pace or slow things down permanently?
9. Prisoner - 3 stars - The answer to that question would be, "We're going to switch things up for a few songs and try something VERY different". I'm not sure how I feel about this song. I'm giving it 4 stars because I give them props for doing something different and kind of expanding on their overall sound. This song rocks harder in places than any other song, while still retaining that southern-cajun feel, but it just feels a little forced and a little half-hearted. The chorus doesn't move me in any way. I guess it's more of a "fun" song, which they are entitled to, but to me, it turned the album in a different direction altogether. Good instrumentation in this one...just didn't love it. It was at this point that I really began to wonder if I was still on the same page with this band...
10. Won't Turn Back - 4 stars - This song is wedged in between two songs that I really didn't love, therefore it tends to get lost, but it is actually a really good song. It's delicate at first and builds to a modest tempo, with a little banjo leading the way. It doesn't rock, it doesn't roll, it doesn't soar or inspire, but it doesn't suck either. It's an album track that will probably never be anything but track #10 on this album, but it's good. I felt like we were pretty much finished by the time I heard this one. Sounds like a "winding down" kind of song...
11. Girl Named Tennessee - 4 stars - Another "fun" song, experimenting with lots of energy, hand-claps and saloon-style piano. There's even a sing-along part for all those interested. It's really kind of "out of character" for these guys, not seeming to have much point except to be fun. Not that there's anything wrong with that. This is one of the more upbeat songs on the album and it's better than "Prisoner", but still doesn't seem to reach its potential. If they can ever figure out how to do this kind of song in the same vein as they do their BEST songs, they'll be unstoppable. It's another one that's kinda growing on me...any song that ends with whistling is hard to resist...
12. Something Beautiful - 5 stars - And......we're back to the album. After what seemed like a creative, experimental "break" for the past three songs, this brings us back to the Needtobreathe that we're all familiar with. The strings in this song are tastefully and appropriately added to the mix without seeming over the top. This one could be a big hit, in my opinion. The guitars are great and Rinehart's voice is the star. It's inspiring, thought-provoking, epic and rocking. At this point, I really got excited, because I can handle a 3-song "break" if we're going to end on a high-note for the last few songs...and we are...
13. The Garden - 5 stars - Beautiful, poignant, thoughtful song. The strings that open it are gorgeous, as is the acoustic guitar. It is immediately biblical, while at the same time presenting a real-life situation that any/all of us could face at any point in life. Great, subtle harmonies and a solid melody make this song one of their best and the drums/bass fill in nicely, giving the song a backbone without stealing the delicacy or sentimentality of it. It's a fine line they walk on this song, instrumentally, but they pull it off beautifully. The song builds into an inspiring crescendo, but never becomes TOO big...it ends as delicately as it began. Great song. Truly a gem to find at the bottom of an album.
14. Let Us Love - 5 stars - Awesome song. This song could've opened the album and along with "The Outsiders", it makes the perfect set of bookends to a great album. At first listen, I wasn't sure if the song was going to live up to its own promise and deliver the kind of punchy, emotional ending that I was craving...then they got INTO it. The last minute of this song makes you want to smile, scream, stomp and clap at the same time. My only complaint is that it didn't go on for another minute or two...I would've been with them if they had. The bass in this song is great and the way they use the energy of the band is just perfect. The hand-clap, vocal break down before the guitar solo is chilling, and the guitar solo is absolutely the coolest thing on this album. I could listen to this song over and over again...and probably will. The perfect ending to a nearly perfect album. Great job, guys!
4 of 4 found the following review helpful:
Must own...as were the others Aug 27, 2009
By Sammie Ogden
I could make a lot of points here as to why this is a great album, but fans knew it would be anyways. But to those that are new to this band, I think the point that needs to be made is that this group, honestly, gives a 110% on absolutely every song, which has become a trend. If you go back and read reviews of their other albums, as well as the second review for this album there is a consistence of people agreeing that every song could be a favorite. I have never owned a cd where I couldn't pick out a song that rose above the others since every song packs so much musical integrity. Obviously, this cd does just that. Unless your in to modern day pop artist that use the demo button on store bought keyboards for hit singles, you will not be dissapointed in the slightest. This cd flourishes in the true craft of music by all elements from vocals to finger snapping.
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