Flatland Cavalry - Wandering Star
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Wandering Star (Interscope, 2023)

Flatland Cavalry

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

" Wandering Star" is the fourth album from the Lubbock, Texas/Nashville-based sextet, Flatland Calvary who straddle the line between country and alternative country. Frontman and principal songwriter Cleto Cordero (vocals, acoustic guitar) is joined by Jason Albers, Jonathan Saenz, Reid Dillon, Wesley Hall and Adam for these 13 songs, mostly ballads and country anthems, and a couple of harder rockers.

Judging by the lyrics and the thematic content, Cordero seems like the kind of guy one would like to meet as he is optimistic, empathetic and caring. There are a couple of breakup songs too for good measure and even a socially conscious rant. The band creates infectious hooks, and though singing about the usual subjects, make their songs relatable. Cordero, and any of the characters he creates is virtually an 'every man.'

Fewer songs may have helped; culling the 13 down to 10 would likely give this fine album even more impact. Case in point, the rocking opener "The Provider" is like every other Bro Country tune ("Got my '83 GMC blowin' double stacks/Rollin' to the house...). The final melancholic solo ballad, "Forgotten" doesn't fit with the tone of the others.

On the other hand, "The Best Days' is an exhilarating ode to optimism with its jangling guitars and swirling B3. Basking in being alive is brought home with these lines – "no tip-toin' round the deep end/ yell, "CANNONBALL." "Only Thing At All" is a succinctly stated ballad about not being able to shake an obsession. We've all been there. The single "Last American Summer" is one of the better songs about regret and yearning heard in this genre. That sincerity carries over to another single, "Mornings With You," with Cordero's wife, Kaitlin Butts, and Saenz's, Sydney Saenz, on background harmonies. The song could easily have been too sappy, but Cordero and the band rendered it authentically.

Four others are noteworthy. "Spinnin'" is just a solid country song that best displays the band's instrumental talents. The shuffle "Oughta See You (The Way I Do)" is an insightful look at one's myopic partner, a common situation that few have expressed as well. "New American Dream" sheds light on economic disparity ("It's another Great Depression tryin' to keep up with the Jetsons.") Finally, "A Thousand Miles An Hour" lets us know we need to slow down and take the time to reflect.

CDs by Flatland Cavalry

Wandering Star, 2023 Welcome to Countryland, 2021

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