Alberta Cross mesmerized listeners with their first release, the 2007 EP, The Thief and the Heartbreaker. From out of nowhere the band showcased a roots-y grandeur similar to early My Morning Jacket and a mean streak for penning mournful, melodious songs that rode the wave of sweet strength in Ericson Stakee’s voice. Immediately gaining attention, they signed to Dave Matthews’ ATO label and in 2009 released their full-length debut, Broken Side of Time. However, as the band’s name recognition and fan base grew something was amiss. While touring with road titans, Them Crooked Vultures and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the feel of their live shows and studio work became more antiseptic, a generic hybrid lacking the special sound of Heartbreaker. Though it was unclear exactly what was happening, the intention behind the music appeared muddled and confused.
When the band recorded and finished their third album this amorphous lack of center became self-evident and the band scrapped it, feeling as if they were on the verge of something. Founding members Stakee and Terry Wolfers hunkered down into the relationship that forms the core of Alberta Cross and edited, remixed, and wrote anew. Through the trials and tribulations comes the appropriately titled, Songs of Patience.
Kicking off with “Magnolia” the band from Heartbreaker is recognizable again and burgeoning. Laying down a sweet yet visceral mix of Laurel Canyon Americana with a dash of distorted guitars, Stakee’s tasteful melodies shine as the band harmonizes with soulful background vocals. Their hearts sound sweetly stoned. “Crate of Gold” mixes the roots of the first EP with the harder edge of Broken Side, burning and balanced, the band sounds inspired.
On songs like “Lay Down”, “Ophelia on My Mind”, and “I Believe in Everything” Alberta Cross shoots for the stars. With crisp lyrical bridges, multi-tracked electric guitars, and huge choruses Stakee and Wolfers borrow more than a few stylistic touchstones from their former touring partner, Noel Gallagher. Ultimately, this hybrid again loses some part of the band’s originality and plays nondescriptly.
On “Wasteland” and “Bonfires” the band again taps into something special. The former is a whole song of radical, heart-wrenching hooks. Stakee is in his wheelhouse vocally and the band chugs along behind him. The later is pure sonic elegance; a mournful and wide-eyed, cosmic campfire sing along. Still honing their sound, when the band finds this sweet spot they are as captivating as any band playing new Americana.