Many of classic rock’s most celebrated heroes are finding themselves to be of a somewhat advanced age, learning that attempting to create inspired and socially relevant music late in a career, is often a losing proposition. The results often range from derivative and inconsequential, to embarrassing.
Heart’s Nancy Wilson, now in the fifth decade of her own prolific career, refuses to flirt, even remotely, with the fate of that general observation.
Having already recorded three sonically and artistically spirited Heart albums this decade, the guitarist / singer / songwriter has now assembled a musical outfit called Roadcase Royale, a veteran group of musicians diverse in musical background, race, and gender. This is not a self indulgent vehicle for Wilson that she commands from on high, but rather, a proper band – a democratic, 6 are 1 outfit, evidenced by their equitable financial stake in the band’s future.
The band’s early fate is now clear however. Roadcase Royale has written and recorded, straight out of the gate, one of the most effectively direct social commentaries made by a rock or R & B outfit, in a very long while.
Their first single, “Get Loud”, pulls off an unlikely feat. It is a rhythmically tight, groove powered, and lyrically direct protest song, that is as digestible as finely crafted pop. Only the lyrics are pointed. Musically, there is not a jagged edge to be found.
This could be largely attributed to the rhythm section Wilson brought with her from Heart, consisting of drummer Ben Smith and bassist Dan Rothchild, along with fellow Heart bandmate Chris Joyner on keyboards. They each sprinkle in subtle flourishes throughout Get Loud, not merely holding the bottom down, but making it interesting as well. Lead guitarist Ryan Waters, a former Prince protege and collaborator, provides the ascending electric riff that propels the song, while Wilson’s acoustic guitar interplay enhances its power. The song is taking us someplace, but the band will get us there on time, and no earlier – an invite to look out the window as we go.
It is singer Liz Warfield however, formerly of Prince’s New Power Generation, that decides where we are going, and she brings us there via inspired choices. Her soulful and nuanced inflection hold energy in reserve throughout, which helps illuminate the lyrics, and in particular, one of the song’s refrains, “Unheard Unseen”. Warfield delivers the line in a manner that lets us know there is something inside of the song’s narrative voice that hasn’t been expressed yet. When combined with the band’s restraint, it has a commanding effect on the listener’s attention.
Get Loud’s message is not ambiguous. It is generally about resistance, and more specifically about the challenges that confront women at this moment, in the face of the new administration. It takes brief turns down what might be other topical avenues as well, such as the opening lines, “No girls like us, in magazines. No fantasy, no peaches and cream.”. Warfield articulates those lines so skillfully, that you nearly forget that she and Wilson, the two ‘girls’ in the band, actually do appear in magazines, and are likely living out their career fantasies. Knowing who the artists are, and what their station in life is, lends Get Loud a poignant dose of empathy when sung through their voices. It is possible that they are singing more for you, than themselves.
Get Loud is a song about a current cause and struggle, powered by a strong R & B vibe that recalls older causes and struggles. Roadcase Royale overcomes that challenge by bringing polish to what should sound dusty, and color to what would otherwise be seen in black and white.
They never do get loud, and they don’t have to. The song’s title and lyrics are the only call to action that’s needed. For Wilson and her mature new band, it’s an inspired way to expend their considerable creative energy.
See and hear Get Loud at roadcaseroyale.com Follow Roadcase Royale on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook