As artists, NEEDTOBREATHE is nothing if not prolific. With five studio albums in the last ten years, plus a few live albums and a number of shorter EP's (not to mention lead singer Bear Rinhart's other two solo albums under the moniker Wilder Woods), the fellows in NEEDTOBREATHE certainly have a good old fashioned work ethic.
Their latest offering, Caves, finds the men of NEEDTOBREATHE in fighting form, coming out of the metaphorical cave (even if they have to crawl) to testify that the dark times can produce perspective and grit that only tough times can: "Tie me up, hold me down / In a cage there's no unlocking / Leave a mark big enough that the bones fall out the sockets / But you still see me crawling hands and knees / Coming out through the mouth of a cave." With the electric guitars of Bear Rinehart and Tyler Burkum bringing the thunder and lightning, the title track rocks with purpose and is a great thesis statement for the album.
The left-field ode to friendship, "Everknown," follows with a unique time signature and arresting piano line that leads into a staccato vocal delivery of fine lyrics highlighting the gift of those unsung heroes around us: "You never give in / You know who you are, you are the everknown / You shine on, you shimmer / We'll follow you on to wherever you go." While many songs of friendship are treacly, syrupy affairs both musically and lyrically, "Everknown" is a refreshing and beautiful offering of thankfulness that is both haunting and melodic: "You never met a darkness you couldn't outshine / You left us everything / but still, you're leavin' us more / We're walkin' down the roads that you walked down before."
Southern rock abounds on the rest of the album, and few rock as melodically as these guys. "By And By" swings like late 60's Rolling Stones while referencing a classic hymn. "Wasting Time (ft. Old Dominion)" is a textbook hybrid country song that floats between that genre and good old rock and roll, energizing the album mid-way through. And at the opposite end of the tempo spectrum, "Fall On Me (ft. Carley Pierce)" hits the slow burn gospel / country ballad balance just right. To add to all the guest star goodness, "Dreams (ft. Judah & The Lion" and the ending slow burn track "Temporary Tears (ft. Foy Vance), end the album with a thoughtful and hopeful refrain: "In this world of hurt, no one deserves / To drown in all these fears / Oh joy, oh joy, come roll away / These temporary tears / Oh joy, don't you leave me / Just say you'll lead me here / Oh joy, oh joy, come roll away / These temporary tears."
If there was a minor critique, it would be all the guest stars present. If just one or two tracks on an album feature a guest artist, then that adds to the overall recipe of an album. But when hitting the four or more mark, an album can start to lose its distinct flavor of the original artist.
But with that minor quibble in the bank, Caves is another good chapter in the NEEDTOBREATHE story, and a great, tuneful rock and roll album for the fall ahead.- Review date: 9/13/23, written by Alex Caldwell of Jesusfreakhideout.com
Record Label: Capitol CMG
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