Ohio is many things to many people. Beautiful landscapes, competitive collegiate football, and for some rock 'n roll. Held within an architectural dreamscape is rock music's history, condensed into one place, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, all sitting magnificently on the waters of Lake Erie.
Ohio has also given us musical diversity with Boz Scaggs, Marilyn Manson, David Grohl (Nirvana/Foo Fighters), The Ohio Players, Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), and has introduced The Black Keys.
Another of Ohio’s contributions is a blues/rock band that goes by the name of Heartless Bastards. Heartless Bastards has steadily gained the attention of music fans following the releases of three excellent albums that include their 2005 debut, Stairs and Elevators, its superior follow-up, All This Time (2006), and their last powerhouse release, The Mountain from 2009.
The band formed in 2003, and is notable not only for its high-powered rock and roll, but also for its creative mainstay, Erika Wennerstrom. Not only has Erika Wennerstrom penned most of the band’s energetic tunes, but she is also the owner of one of the more distinctive voices in our current batch of rock and roll brilliance.
Stairs and Elevators disappointed no one. From its dynamic and loud opener, “Gray,” through the softly introspective “Piano Song,” to the hard rocking closer, “Lazy,” the album is a sweet beginning to an evolving band that changed out its musicians for every album, leaving only Wennerstrom to oversee the business of rock and roll, Heartless Bastards-style.
All This Time followed the band’s debut with searing heat and energy, lighting a blistering flame as a beacon for fans. Beginning with a song better than anything found on the previous album, “Into the Open” sets the stage for ten memorable tracks that include “Searching For The Ghost," “All This Time,” “Brazen,” “Blue Day,” and the perfect, “Came A Long Way.”
When Heartless Bastards released their third album, The Mountain, three years had passed from their last issue. That album is filled with eleven tracks of such flawlessness that it hardly mattered that you had to wait so long for it. Opening with the extended title track, the album moves breathlessly forward with a collection of diverse musical exploration that underscores the band’s ability to embrace multiple angles of blues/rock: “Be So Happy,” a caffeinated “Early In The Morning,” the popular “Out At Sea” often played on promotional TV appearances, “Wide Awake" a nice country-influenced, camp-fire type song to “So Quiet" and “Witchey Poo.” The remaining brilliance effortlessly makes up their third album.
On February 14, the band will release their fourth album,
Arrow. It’s no surprise that fans are
eagerly awaiting that date given the previous output of the band and
Wennerstrom’s willingness to wait several years for her songcraft to boil to absolute
Weeks earlier, a teaser single from the new album was released to a fervent fan base. The song, “Parted Ways” immediately satisfies in the same ways that earlier Heartless Bastards tracks have. With ten new songs within Arrow, it sure feels like a solid bet that fans will get another classic album.
In a time where it’s tough to maintain a foothold in the changing world of rock and roll, Heartless Bastards have continued to attract attention, seeming to do it with a measured pace. No matter. Just as long as Heartless Bastards are creating musical gems, true rock exists with a healthy pulse.
[Note: You can stream the entire new album, and download the single, "Parted Way" using the widget found below.]