On their debut, Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles combine the sounds of the northwest with those of the deep south trying to end up somewhere in between (the Colorado/Utah border?). They occasionally strike a great balance, but spend most of the record drifting back and forth between the two regional styles.
The record opens with the two most stylistically balanced tracks, “Where I Begin” and “Fortification.” Both sound distinctly western and are full of momentum. Then comes “Private Land” that firmly brings the record back south. Its nimble guitar playing and clever political lyrics make it one of the better songs on Days that Passed.
The back half of the album is quieter (with the exception of rocker “The Fall”) and draws on Bertram’s experience as a singer/songwriter. Many of the songs feel like fleshed out versions of his solo work and have a peaceful sound.
Bertram sings in a very pleasant tenor, but it’s got a clean and distant quality that makes it so he has to rely on other instruments to convey the deeper emotions. On “Alive,” the stellar downtrodden closer, Bertram sings, “You said that you were tired of being alive” and the weight of the line doesn’t hit until the mournful harmonica comes in after his vocals.
Days that Passed is a solid first outing that covers a lot of ground. The band is still searching for that perfect mix of styles, but there are glimpses here that point to a promising future.
Johnny Bertram and the Golden Bicycles’ Days that Passed will be released April 27 via Esperanza Plantation.
Johnny Bertam and the Golden Bicycles - "Private Land" (mp3)