One need venture no further into the depth and breadth of Granville Automatic’s new album Radio Hymns than its first tracks, the soothingly harmonious “Summer Street,” to feel totally enticed. It’s a song of such compelling command, it’s tempting to simply put the player on repeat and hear it again repeatedly before proceeding to the succeeding songs.
Of course, that would deprive the listener of the further enticement that awaits, that is, a series of sumptuous songs that revolve around an intriguing theme, the darker side of Nashville and all the tangled threads that are essential to the city’s history. “Black Avenue Gallows” explores Music Row’s dark and dire past, while the title tracks tells the story about how the iconic Ryman Auditorium was saved from the wrecking ball in the eleventh hour. “Marbles” reveals the little-known story of the time Jimi Hendrix spent in Nashville and the misperception he created with the locals at the time.
It’s fascinating stuff of course, and Granville Automatic’s two principals, Vanessa Olivarez and Elizabeth Elkins, convey these sordid stories with a seduction and conviction befitting these dramatic designs. With guest appearances from Jim Lauderdale, Kevin Griffin of Better Than Ezra, Ben Fields and Matraca Berg, Radio Hymns resonates with an energy and authority befitting these sordid subjects. That’s not surprising; the pair are adept at their craft, having written songs for the likes of Billy Currington , Sugarland, Kira Isabella, Wanda Jackson, and Angaleena Presley, among others, while certain of their songs have been featured on such popular programs as “American Crime” and “The Lying Game” on ABC, and Netflix’s “The Ranch.”
In a bow to their commercial success, they chose to dub the new album Radio Hymns to signify the fact that music not only provides their livelihood but also offers a salve for spiritual healing.
Those sentiments shine through on songs such as “Affairs of Honor,” “Adelicia” and “Treaty Oak,” a trio of tunes that form the emotional essence of the new album. The music is as powerful as it is purposeful, and the duo’s drive and determination clearly shine through. Calling this an exceptional effort is an understatement. It is indeed, nothing less than simply stunning.