Amarillo Sky

McBride And The Ride

Dualtone Records, 2002

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


While we feature all sorts of music here on "The Daily Vault," I'll be the first to admit that country music is not my first choice to listen to for leisure. It's not that I hate country music; actually, I've heard quite a bit over the years that I like a lot. But I've never really developed a strong desire to search out groups in this genre like I've done in rock and pop, looking for the next big thing.

McBride And The Ride hardly qualify for that, seeing as they've been slugging it out since the '90s. But nine years have passed since Terry McBride and crew have graced the world with an album; their latest, Amarillo Sky, is the kind of disc that piques my interest in this genre more than it did before I first heard it, even though it occasionally drifts into anonymity.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There's no doubt that the group - bassist/vocalist McBride, guitarist/vocalist Ray Herndon and drummer/vocalist Billy Thomas - are a talented group of musicians who can take a song and work magic with it. But what sets this group apart in my mind is the focus on real love rather than the country stereotype of heartbreak and loss. Listen to tracks like "Anything That Touches You" and "When Somebody Loves You" and try not to be moved by them. And while the words are powerful enough, it is the performance of McBride And The Ride (along with a group of guest musicians) who hammer the message home; frankly, without a solid musical performance to back the words, they wouldn't mean much.

This isn't to say that everything is sunshine and roses on Amarillo Sky. There are moments where loss and crushed dreams come back into the frame ("Hasta Luego," Why Not Colorado"), as well as the plight of the American farmer ("Amarillo Sky"), songs which frmly plant one's feet back into reality. The difference on many of these is that there is not a sense of hopelessness and doom in the words and music; often, one can feel a glint of hope through the sweat and tears. This is skill in songwriting, not mere trickery.

Yet Amarillo Sky sometimes feels like another album chasing Garth Brooks's shadow, with a more pop-like shell around the country twang. As a result, not every song hits the target square on, though no track could be called a failure in any way. It's just that tracks like "Sure Feels Like It," Leave Her With Me" and their cover of The Who's "Squeeze Box" just don't have the same complete feeling about them as the stellar songs do. At times like this, it's far too easy for the listener to become distracted, meaning they won't be easily able to get back into this disc when another powerful track hits.

Still, Amarillo Sky is a worthy album that suggests that McBride And The Ride are not only in it for the long haul this time around, but that they could put together a solid challenge for the throne in country music. It wouldn't surprise me to hear at least one of these songs latched onto by adult contemporary radio - and that could just be what this group needs to break into the high circles of country music fame.

Rating: B+

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© 2002 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dualtone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.