Peoria-based Bluegrass/Americana band The Way Down Wanders decided not to skimp on life’s big themes on their latest, More Like Tomorrow. From dealing with the anxiety around being a new parent, recovering from addiction, suicide, and simply learning to be your authentic self in a world pushing for conformity, their latest effort manages to be both weightier than any of their previous albums but also more enjoyable.
There is an earnestness to the music here that could have come off as a tad corny handled by another group, but on a song like “The Wire,” an easy-going singalong focusing on acceptance and coming together (a pretty bold notion given the current state of the country), the band make it hard to dislike thanks to the catchiness and sentiment. Elsewhere, heading to darker corners of life, co-vocalist Collin Krause sings about his own battle with addiction as well as the suicide of a neighbor on “Parkside Drive”. They also tackle loss again on the beautiful “Codeine Rest and Loneliness,” a song punctuated with soulful harmonies. Musically, while Bluegrass and Americana are the foundations of the songs here, the band does experiment a bit with synthesizers in places like “Hard Times”. The group brought in Jellyfish co-founder Roger Joseph Manning to play keyboards throughout.
Despite having two vocalists and two songwriters (Collin Krause and his brother-in-law Austin Krause-Thompson), the album feels decidedly cohesive. Despite some strong elements of pop and several singalong moments (just try and avoid humming along to the album closer “Everything’s Made of Sand”) the album is not as accessible as their earlier records on the first listen – thanks in part to the weightier topics – but with repeated listens the album grows on you quickly and becomes clear just how great the band has evolved over the course of three records.
Photo credit: Keith Cotton