Robert Jon & The Wreck released their fifth studio album Last Light On The Highway on 8 May, 2020, and it is a stormer.
The Orange County band, led by guitarist and lead vocalist Robert Jon Burrison, comprises drummer Andrew Espantman, keyboardist Steve Maggiora, guitarist Henry James, and bassist Warren Murrel, are joined on vocals by Mahalia Barnes, Jade McRae and Juanita Tippins. Their latest, 11 track, album was produced by the band and Jeff Frickman.
Since their debut album, Fire Started in 2011, Robert Jon & The Wreck have been releasing albums and EPs and frantically touring the globe; winning awards along the way for ‘Best Blues’, ‘Best Rock’, and ‘Best Live Band’ at the Orange County Music Awards. They’ve also shared stage with names like Buddy Guy, Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, Walter Trout, and Rival Sons, among many others; with Bonamassa saying the band are “keeping the history of classic 60s and 70s rock alive for newer generations.” Their hard work touring has clearly had an effect as they prove their chops on this album, which – while not disparaging their prior music at all - is a cut above their previous offerings.
Single Oh Miss Carolina kicks off the album in style with beautiful classic southern riffs, bluesy roots and choruses that together produce a barnstorming sound. The song is about struggling for the good in relationships, and if the gorgeous harmonies don’t touch you, then Robert Jon’s lovely voice and the tight instrumentation certainly will. Robert Jon confirmed in a conversation with Guitars Exchange that the super-stylish black guitar he plays on the song is an Ernie Ball Music Man Armada.
Bluesy soul number Work It Now is another great number, which features a full horn section and soulful choral backing. The song also features piano, sax and tasty guitar licks as well as some ‘lessons’ about how to make long-term romantic relationships last.
The Eagles inspired the catchy number I Can't Stand It, which is about the experience of being ghosted by someone you love. The song grabs you from the beginning and features some dreamy guitar harmonies by Henry James and Robert Jon. Tired of Drinking Alone also showcases some of James’ outstanding guitar work, this time with slide, on a theme as timeless as the blues itself.
Do You Remember is a sentimental track that looks back to a time when the writer was 17 years old and full of hope for the future; while This Time Around is also reflective, but this time about the mistakes we make with those who are close to us. Rocker Don't Let Me Go begins with James producing a monster riff, while One Last Time has a grunge feel to it; but on this song the big riff comes at the end. At the three minute mark the song develops into something much more ominous; perhaps reflecting its message that it is necessary to take risks in life.
Gold is an excellent ballad from the perspective of someone who has been betrayed and dumped by their partner. Again listeners are treated to Robert Jon’s raw vocal and a soaring solo by Henry James.
The album closes with a wonderful duet, Last Light On The Highway Part 1 and Part 2. The first part is acoustic-driven and moody, while Robert Jon sings, “The thunder of the road is my only friend. I’ll keep driving ‘till I’m the last light on the highway.” Part 2 features heavy drums and a descending bass line, piano, electric guitars, and strings in order to explore the life that musicians lead; that of always seeking to go further and live the dream.
Last Light on the Highway is the band’s strongest statement to date and is sure to broaden their fanbase. It is rich in musical and lyrical content and is simply a joy to listen to.