Reivers – Second Story (review)
After a 22-year hiatus, the Reivers return
When you’ve taken an extended time off, as the Reivers have, you can either try and pick up where you left off, or forge a new path. Thankfully, they’ve chosen the former for their first new album in 22 years, Second Story.
The original quartet of John Croslin, vocals/guitar; Kim Longacre, vocals/gtr; Cindy Toth, bass; and Garrett Williams, drums, remains unchanged – but, they’ve added a fifth member in keyboardist Eric Friend. And, it’s his warm playing that imparts much of the record.
Twenty two years is a long time – long enough for each member to raise a family, and then return to the music that brought so much joy to them years ago. However, for them to attempt to re-capture the magic of songs like “Freight Train Rain,” and “Araby” would seem foolish now. Those songs were done by teenagers – miles from who they are now. Instead, where Second Story succeeds is how they embrace the years gone by.
When Longacre sings “I’ll wait and see / if a bridge to you / holds a fool like me” on “Red Hands,” it’s the kind of personal honesty that only comes from knowing yourself for a long time. Croslin waxes nostalgic – “I still remember that / it’s that cupcake love / that we long for” on “When She Sings.” Of course, all that wisdom can come at a price – the cynicism of “Liar” can only come from someone who’s lived through many disappointments.
The album opens with the somber “All the Drunks Say Amen,” where the record gets it’s title in the lyrics – “it’s too late / now for me / I’m on the second story.” As Longacre croons “I will be with you,” Friend lays down a gentle Rhodes piano line. The tempo increases for the aforementioned “Liar,” which has keyboards that sound like a calliope, and some great drumming from Williams. As in many of the songs on the record, Longacre uses her voice more as an instrument to add color to the chorus.
The one song they didn’t write actually seems to be the most autobiographical – “Jo and Joe” has the lyrics “Jo sings high / Joe sings low / infatuation grows and grows” – perfectly suited for the dual vocalists in the band. “Setting Son” is probably the closest to the upbeat rockers on their previous records – it’s one of the few songs purely driven by guitars. “Take Cover” is reminiscent of “Dragonflies” off Pop Beloved.
Both Croslin’s & Longacre’s voices have aged somewhat. But, there’s a comfort in this. That, despite what the band thought in 1985, when they released “Things Don’t Change” – things DO change. And, it’s okay. A welcome return, and one of my favorite records of the year so far. –Tony Peters