The Reckless Electric

Independent release, 2018

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


When you combine the talents of a pair of Americana songwriting aces like Mary Bragg and Becky Warren, each a master of the deep-diving, heartfelt confessional, you know what to expect: songs that move your soul and dampen your eyes, anthems to independence, co-dependence, and all the fraught spaces in between.

Which seems to be exactly why they did the opposite.

Warren tells the story thusly: “I don’t typically do a lot of co-writing, but at that time Mary and I were writing together almost every week and enjoying it. A couple of songs we co-wrote ended up on Mary’s album [three, in fact, appear on Bragg’s 2017 release Lucky Strike], but then we wrote some goofier songs that weren’t really right for either of our albums. After we’d done a few of those, we thought ‘What if we just did a whole album of these kind of goofy songs?’”

Thus was born The Reckless Electric, with Bragg and Warren writing and singing the songs, supported by a crack band comprised of friends and musical compatriots of each: Dan Knobler and Jeff Malinowski (guitars), Jimmy Sullivan (bass, organ), and Megan Jane (drums).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Warren continues: “I call (the songs) goofy, but I’m still really proud of them—some are really hilarious! Usually the most hilarious parts are the parts Mary wrote, but they were just really fun to work on together. I would say ‘Couldn’t we write a song about ice cream and liquor?’ And Mary would say ‘It’s hard to rhyme liquor…’ and I’d say ‘I don’t care, let’s try it!’ It was a ridiculous idea, but we did it and it worked.”

Indeed it did, and few worked to greater comic affect than the giddy “Ice Cream And Liquor,” in which each declares to an unlikely partner over a jaunty honky tonk arrangement that she “Thought we’d clash, but we hardly ever bicker / You and me, baby, we’re ice cream and liquor.”

Moving effortlessly between trading lines and blending their voices in unison, Warren and Bragg offer equally clever and enthusiastic songs about nostalgia (“Comeback”), the downside of dating a small-town BMOC (“Local”), the kiddie beauty pageant scene (“The Little Miss Sparkle Pageant”), and the tragi-comic consequences of winning a trip to France in a county fair jellybean-jar-counting contest (“France”).

On Tom Petty-esque rocker “Straight A Girls,” the pair makes fun of their own straight-laced-ness: “We wouldn’t park in the fire lane / We wouldn’t leave a mess / We wouldn’t try to take thirteen items / In the twelve or less.” And how could you possibly resist a song (“Like Her”) that opens with a line as specific yet revealing on multiple levels as “She made a needlepoint of Townes Van Zandt”? It’s hard not to think of Fountains Of Wayne when you encounter songwriting with this much craft, heart, and humor.

Much like FoW, Bragg and Warren make sure this album is more than a one-trick pony by injecting real emotion into these songs alongside the various punchlines. “The Say When” sets its action in a neighborhood bar by that clever name, but the song itself is a wistful ode to the importance of community. And “Come Around” is downright serious, an anthem to longing and the magnetic pull of an old love.

The ultimate message of Comeback is simple: laughter is good for the soul. These sassy tunes might not win any “serious” songwriting contests, but there’s no denying the craft that Mary Bragg and Becky Warren poured into them—and more importantly, the joy. The world could use a little more of both.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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