Album Review – Justin Wells –
Justin Wells The United State.jpg

When annotating your illustrated field guide of modern Kentucky singer-songwriters, make sure it has a specific entry on Lexington's Justin Wells. Certainly it's a complicated and big topic, starting with artists like Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson, to Kelsey Waldon and Ian Noe, to Tyler Childers and Chris Knight, and across the board, marginalized with annotations, promising aspirants and overlooked Legends. But Mr. Wells is not one to be left out of the discussion.

As the former frontman of the formidable southern rock band Fifth on the Floor, Justin Wells has earned one such right to be among Kentucky's top class, including starting a solo career that earned him the 2016 Saving Country Music Song of the Year for "The Dogs." ". His unique, progressive take on roots music has resonated with many, with a rich voice ripe for song and a gifted way of conveying emotions through writing.

Justin Wells has released the album The United State for 2020. Wells himself is ambitious and dedicated and says the album is “life from before birth to after death. The songs are a timeline. I'm on somewhere. Each of you is on somewhere. “The album is a work that seeks to transcend all differences by focusing on our carnal similarities and the universal truths we all share. It gives you a lot to digest and ponder while showcasing a fun mix of root influences not entirely tied to the land, always cousin or next to it.

The United State is intended as a cohesive work with a linear course and yet produces several tracks that work well on their own, especially the first two full songs on the record: "The Screaming Song" about the birth of man with its dreamy, watery atmosphere Opening that leads to a harmonious southern rock epic, followed by the more grounded and yet entertaining “No Time for a Broken Heart”. Later on, “After The Fall” and “Walls Fall Down” also stand out from the crowd, but due to the nature of the material involved, certain tracks may speak differently or stand out from others. How you personally interpret the recording from your own perspective is part of the experience.

But the great vision and underlying message of the United States is, in some ways, its heaviest burden and greatest asset. Critics love to praise subtlety and nuance in the music, but for some of the songs on the album it is not obvious which stage of life they want to highlight or illustrate. And while it's never really wrong, there are some moments in the recording that are difficult to draw your attention, especially in the middle range, although admittedly this result may be different for different people. Some may be in this work right away and fully. Others may find some cool songs, others find them kind of boring and don't really connect with the work or its message as a whole.

One of the reasons it took until the end of November to review this album, released in late August, is that despite repeated twists and deliberations, we still haven't found a solid understanding and opinion for the United States of this particular set of ears was, even now words are composed to try to describe it and to put it in a larger context. This should not be taken as a token of disapproval, just a word of caution that the album may fail to convey its message and appeal to some listeners, even if others consider it a masterpiece and one of the best of the year. In the end, no perspective is wrong. It is in the nature of this record.

Produced by Duane Lundy with guitar work by Laur Joamets and Alex Muñoz, The United State is well broken down from the approach to the tracks, to the artwork that accompanies the record, to the writing by Justin Wells. While the scope is enigmatic and can leave sections of the audience behind, the effort at least deserves your consideration as to whether the potential is prophetic to you personally.

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