Album Review: Eleven Hundred Springs – Eight the Hard Way
A country rock quintet from Dallas, Eleven Hundred Springs has issued 11 albums since their 1998 debut. On Eight the Hard Way, the band showcases their winning blend of country shuffles and Western swing hoedowns.
Lead vocalist Matt Hillyer’s wistful singing lends a bittersweet feeling to these songs about dark bars and broken hearts. His bandmates chip in a series of charming harmonies. With their country competitors often hidden behind a monstrous wall of sound, Eleven Hundred Springs allows their appreciation for laidback traditional country to take root and flourish. The album is full of joyful sounds, from Jordan W. Hendrix’s fiddle to Burton Lee’s pedal steel, that showcase their brand of “Hardcore Honkytonk,” the name of the album’s seventh track that acts as a slap in the face to Nashville’s current hit parade.
The songs here are uniformly strong. On opening number, “This Ain’t the First Time,” Hillyer details a love led to the brink by a man’s half-witted shenanigans: “I came home loaded again,” he admits, even with the threat of D-I-V-O-R-C-E hanging over his head. “Heartstrings” (“Wrapped up like a ball of twine,” he sings.) pledges his faith in love no matter the angry squabbles and empty promises. The band at least offers a more encouraging view of romantic pursuits with “For Better or Worse,” a fiddle-laced ode to lifetime devotion. Even softer tones can be heard on the heart-tugging lullaby “Nobody Loves You Like Me.”
Considering their list of Lone Star influences that includes Bob Wills and Buddy Holly, they finish with a fact that should be obvious: “We’re From Texas,” a jovial tune about celebrating their past, presents the typical “I’m from the country” braggadocio with a wry twist. Though not too much of a leap from their previous work, Eight the Hard Way is a formula worth repeating.
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