Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.
Several months ago in March, I reviewed ‘Salty Dog,’ an EP that Swedish singer songwriter Calle Ameln released. I was enthusiastic about his potential; the album had some very solid tracks. It also had some mixing issues, though, which I addressed in that review. ‘Salty Dog’ was, in essence, the preface to ‘Revolution On The Rocks,’ since many of the tracks are the same. They’re revisited here, however, so let’s check out the entirety of the album and see how Ameln holds up against his previous work.
‘Revolution,’ the opening of the album, is a hard hitting rocker about late nights, booze, and independence. So, yes - it is derivative. There’s no doubt about that. Ameln approaches the record with such gusto and intensity, however, that he sells his performance to you. ‘Revolution’ feels like a track you could most certainly sing along to, pumping your first into the hot summer air at a concert.
Even though ‘Revolution’ is a fun track, ‘Coming Home’ marks the first moment on the album that a level of substance is presented. (Well, that kind of substance, anyway.) ‘Coming Home’ feels a tad melancholy; it’s a track about coming back to a home and wife that are potentially strained or broken.
Earlier this year, I called ‘I Don’t Feel Down’ a “superior jaunt through both Ameln’s songwriting and production work.” The track still stands tall amidst its counterparts on this larger effort. I love Ameln’s sound when its broken down into acoustic, barebones elements. He’s in fine form on ‘I Don’t Feel Down.’
‘It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere’ speaks for itself - it’s a cover of the Alan Jackson / Jimmy Buffett collaborative track that continues to take radios by storm every summer. So, let’s face it: this track is the epitome of its own trope. The original track is over-produced, commercialized, and generally designed to be played on Top 40 country radio. (Hell, the music video of this song is even the two performers riding around on a yacht in cowboy attire with gorgeous women.)
Here’s the thing - Ameln’s rendition doesn’t take any creative license. It’s more or less the same track. Ameln’s voice, however, is far more likable than that of Jackson. It doesn’t feel as contrived or ridiculous in this album. For that, I must give Ameln props. He handles a difficult song to cover and does admirably well.
‘Is There A Chance’ is another song I lauded in March, and it’s still excellent. It’s one of Ameln’s best jaunts through songwriting. It’s infectiously poppy, sentimentally soft, and well performed. ‘A Little Bit Of Us’ doesn’t feel as precise, though. The songs before it are pretty laser-cut - they know exactly where they’re going. ‘A Little Bit Of Us’ feels a bit aimless, and its musings through love song tropes aren’t particularly new or interesting.
‘I Built A Bar’ remains an interesting track. From the soft synthesizers to the steel guitars to the inherent stereotypical nature of its subject matter, ‘I Built A Bar’ is actually quite a nice little track. I’d go as far to argue that the building of ‘the bar’ could be entirely metaphorical for a relationship or any other endeavor. The next track, ‘Pardon My French,’ was something I called a “bit of a messed up hodpodge” in March. Good news! It’s fixed here, for the most part.
‘Pardon My French’ is no longer a mess. The new mix fixes all of the mayhem of its original presentation and makes it infinitely more palatable. And goodness, the solo section is fantastic, and the key change is handled much more smoothly. In my previous critique, I also said ‘Salty Dog’ is a track that lacks depth, but it’s pleasant enough. That still stands.
‘Remember When’ is similarly more interesting than its Alan Jackson counterpart. I do think it’s notably odd to have two covers from the same artist on one album, though. One cover amidst a bunch of originals is normal. Two tracks from Alan Jackson on the same record is a bit much, though, and ‘Revolution On The Rocks’ would even be suited by having ‘Salty Dog’ or ‘Pardon My French’ as a closer.
‘Revolution On The Rocks’ echoes the same sound you may be familiar with if you listened to ‘Salty Dog’ in March. This is a more tight effort, though, and it suits Ameln well. His reworkings of tracks are much, much better, and for the most part, he’s still a performer worth having on your radar if country pop rock is something that appeals to you.