Though Galen Hartley’s name is the only one attached, Bad Advice is primarily a communal effort. With contribution from 11 other musicians, Bad Advice is an elaborate production and the skilled musicianship involved is certainly on display.
Bad Advice finds Hartley + Co. striking a balance between soft and slow folk-infused songs and those who are more upbeat and flirt with other categorizations like jazz or alt-country. Throughout this genre blending, Hartley’s unique vocal presence standouts. Hartley throws his voice though not in a way that’s over the top.Whether it be when questioning, “we’re too old to be satisfied darling, where’s your appetite?” (“Red Meat Cadillac”) or a topic a bit more sombre, “when I came home I just wasn’t the same” (“Everything is True”), he sings with varying emotions allowing Hartley to produce a unique experience with each of his thirteen songs.
Bad Advice’s first two songs are of an upbeat folk-pop nature and easily grab your attention. In the standout title track, the pairing of Craig Pedersen’s trumpet and Adam Kinner on tenor saxophone are essential to the fun melody while the quick witted and quick talking vocals from Hartley makes for a great combination. The following song, “Red Meat Cadillac,” continues this moveable beat and adds fun handclaps + some “do-do-do” verses for bonus points.
On the softer side of Bad Advice, “Slow Dancer, Bread Baker” takes its rhythm, a slow and steady beat, from its title, making it perfect for, yes, slow dancing. “Her Majesty’s Thunder and Brass” also features this steady beat but this particular track has a darker atmosphere thanks to the wail of a violin (Adrian Dolan) and lyrics telling of a troubled monarchy.
With its tender interconnection of sadness and love, “Bring it to Me” is the strongest of this “softer side.” Featuring Tamara Sandor on backing vocals, “Bring it to Me” is melodious and unexpectedly catching and with the closing line, “I want you just the way you are, bruised and bittersweet,” get ready to be smitten with Hartley.
As heard in “Bring it to Me,” Sandor’s contributions are a highlight of Bad Advice. Sandor’s harmonies boosts “River Run Low,” which has that previously mentioned jazz feel, while “Sing One More” finds Hartley and Sandor exchanging lyrics and harmonizing for a saddening tale.
With talent aplenty in both Galen Hartley and his friends, the only bad advice present would be if I told you not to check out this album.
Top Tracks: “Bad Advice,” “Bring it to Me”
Rating: Strong Hoot (Good)