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  We Have Cause to be Uneasy  
  Wild Sweet Orange  
  Canvasback Music  
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We Have Cause to be Uneasy, the debut album from Birmingham, Alabama's Wild Sweet Orange, is easy to dismiss as a record that is "radio-friendly" and "polished". Recorded (and then re-recorded) by a youngish 5 piece, at first listen, this record is a musical mix of the introspective and anthemic, all wrapped up in a nicely soothing musical package that focuses on the slightly husky croon of lead singer Preston Lovinggood. I've read reviews that call this album Brit-Rock influenced and I've read other pieces that define them as Southern Rock (an obvious conclusion, with the Birmingham connection and all). I’m not sure I agree with any of it. But, suffice it to say that this is the type of music that I usually find pleasant enough for background noise as I read, but not engaging enough for me to think, "What I really want to hear right now is some Wild Sweet Orange."

So, I mentally wrote Wild Sweet Orange off with the thought that at some point I needed to sit down, focus, and really give it a thorough listen. But then, something happened that changed my perspective. You see, I've been listening to music for...let's say a lot of years. It's made me jaded and a little ornery and perhaps a little more critical than I ought to be. As a result, things that are really inconsequential (like, say, the vocals being way in front of the rest of the music, which is characteristic of Wild Sweet Orange) irritate me and make me want to pop in some other band.

But to get back to my point, what changed my mind about Wild Sweet Orange was listening to the album with another listener. In this case, I have a 19 year old female cousin who was born and raised in the rural Deep South. Before starting college, her musical experiences consisted of popular radio and the occasional iTunes purchase recommended by her friends. In short, her musical horizons have been fairly limited and, as the family musical weirdo, over the holidays I took it upon myself to play some new things for her. Well, she wasn't too fond of Say Hi, or Get Help, or any of the other acts about whom I gush on EvilSponge. Rather, the one band that grabbed her attention was…you guessed it…Wild Sweet Orange.

In looking back, I can see where my cousin is coming from. Ten Dead Dogs, the opening track of We Have Cause to be Uneasy features with Lovinggood in a slower-paced balled over arpeggio guitars and restrained, minimalist bass. The melancholy nature of the lyrics is relatively subdued and undercut by the gradual intensification of the music as the song speeds up and adds more instruments. This slow to fast transition seems to be a trend in Wild Sweet Orange's music, as they revisit it often throughout the album. As an example, Seeing and Believing begins with the same ballad-y pace before the music soars with additional effects and a faster tempo (and a few well-place power chords) towards the very end of the tune. You can also hear it in An Atlas to Follow, albeit with a more bluegrass-y rhythm and what sounds like a banjo hanging around, or even on album closer Land of No Return, where the tempo only marginally increases, but the instrumentation certainly becomes more full and echoey.

However, Wild Sweet Orange's most effective tunes are the ones where they maintain a single musical vision from beginning to end. The best example of this is Either/Or, which starts with a thumping kick drum and a guitar line that could have pulled from The Drive By Truckers' catalogue. When Lovinggood's vocals kick in, his husky voice punctuates the anthemic music. This feeling only increases as the song reaches its chorus, which just screams to be played loudly (preferably in a car, with the windows down, as one drives down an interstate highway). In contrast, House of Regret has a funky, harder beat and layered instrumentation that gives the song a darker urgency, which makes me think that this song is just begging to be played on the radio. Certainly my cousin adores this tune and is particularly entranced by the backing harmonies during the quieter, more a-cappella bridge and the loud, almost screaming ending. Even the more introspective tunes like Aretha's Gold maintain their languid pace throughout, but with more focus and accent notes, so that they don't come across as unrelentingly downbeat, ala an act like Old Ghost.

I'm glad I gave Wild Sweet Orange another listen. There may be things about We Have Cause to be Uneasy that I find either cloying or overdone. Yet, I have to remember that elements that throw me off are the same ones that other, less jaded listeners (like my cousin) find irresistible. At the very least, you have to admit that, if this is what radio-friendly is about, there are bands who do it without the thought and effort you find in Wild Sweet Orange.

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     Concert: Thu.11.Sept.08


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