You may have heard Jonathan Tyler’s past work and not even realized it. The Dallas native and his band The Northern Lights have had tracks featured on various TV shows including NBC’s Friday Night Lights, Boardwalk Empire, Cake Boss, and more. For his third album, Tyler had to dispense with The Northern Lights, at least in name, due to contractual reasons, but it doesn’t seem to have hindered him creatively.
Holy Smoke is a pleasing slice of bluesy, groovy, twangy, North Texas rock, that at times stretches beyond the influences of the DFW. “Cannon Ball,” for example, would fit nicely alongside Britain’s The Vaccines, but then breaks off into a dreamy harmonica bridge that plants it firmly in the American West. Similarly, the opening track “Hallelujah” could be confused, at first, for latter-day Lenny Kravitz. However, Tyler quickly takes it into a different, and one could argue, more authentic direction.
The first single, “To Love is to Fly,” features friend and sometime touring mate Nikki Lane and is a slower number. “Let’s get wasted and do some cocaine/burn up some bridges, forget our names,” is Tyler’s opening line as he get right down to business. A take on relationships and destructive behavior, it’s quite an emotional rollercoaster ride.
It’s followed by the peppier, but slightly melancholy, “California Sunshine.” Laden with hooks, as are all of the tracks, the song finds its niche with a clever but restrained use of distortion. “Riverbottom,” on the other hand, cranks up the bluesyness, but manages to chug along quite nicely bolstered by its appealing melody.
An excellent example of American music in a time when radio and the charts have forgotten what made this country’s musical heritage so great.
9 Smokes out of 10
PF Wilson has been writing about music, TV, radio, and movies for over 20 years. He has also written about sports, business, and politics with his work appearing in Cincinnati CityBeat, The Houston Press, Cleveland Scene, Cincinnati Magazine, Cincy Magazine, Atomic Ranch, and many more. Check out his podcast PF’s Tape Recorder available from Podbean or in iTunes.