Midwest Soul Xchange Translate Flint Water Crisis Through Rock Opera ‘Weakened at the Asylum’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

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A rock opera is an ambitious undertaking for any band – particularly at a time when rock operas seem very much a thing of the past. However, Midwest Soul Xchange has not only produced a rock opera, but a rock opera with a very unexpected theme. Weakened at the Asylum is a collection of songs about the water crisis in Flint.

After an intro that sets the scene for the album, “Fifteen Parts” leads off the album. With the piano and the non-traditional structure of the song, this has a bit of a jam-band feel with a twist of Americana from the mandolin and the accordion. This song really conveys some of the horror of the water crisis – especially in the lyrics about a rash after every bath and hair clumps in the drain.

“Simple” has a chorus and backing vocals that would get the audience singing along if a film or stage version of this album were ever created.

Ryan Summers and Nate Cherrier did a good job of creating a mood as the album progresses from one song to the next. Despite the heavy theme “Simple” is a catchy tune whose chorus is easy to sing along with while “The Loser Illusion” and “Dear Sarah” are kind of moody ballads that help introduce some drama to the story of the album. “Molehill Mountain” is another catchy song with harmony vocals that sound like they belong in a Simon and Garfunkel song.

Summers and Cherrier have managed to create an album where each song feels like a scene in a play or a film. The other thing they have done effectively is to make the listener forget that this is a concept album. As you listen to the album, it’s not always at the front of your mind that all of these songs are about the Flint water crisis. As the album progresses, you mostly notice that each song is not only very well done, but also different in tone (encompassing folk, rock, and Americana) from the songs that precede it. Weakened at the Asylum was released independently on November 23 and is available everywhere now.

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