August Christopher is a Nashville based band which has a sound which encompasses many different elements, but could best be described as rock/pop with a leaning towards country rock. They’ve gained a reputation for being a hard working band and have secured support slots in the past with Lynyrd Skynrd, Train, Seven Mary Three and Nickelback among others.
This third August Christopher release is a concept disc about “a man struggling with his alter-ego, walking a tightrope of good and evil”. As always with concept albums, this isn’t always completely clear; concepts aside, though, ‘A Brand New Day’ features some good quality material – a couple of tracks fall short of the mark, but generally, the album presents a solid set of tunes.
The opening number is almost totally driven by Corey Boise’s very rhythmic drumming. While this dominates most of the song, Criss Cheatham’s confident vocal delivery helps make this a great opening number. A few angular guitar chords create a bouncy feel midway and overall, it has the swagger of something which carries the spirit of the New Orleans powerhouse Cowboy Mouth. ‘Midnight Summer’s Rain’ presents something slower, with a more understated vocal, coupled with great ringing guitar work. It’s a fine number, but once a guest vocal from Crystal Cheatham kicks in, things are taken up a gear. Ms Cheatham’s vocal is strong with a slight country twang and provides a great counterpoint to Criss’s lead.
A cover of the Phil Collins classic ‘In The Air Tonight’ comes as an unexpected surprise (although it won’t be much of a surprise to anyone reading this). Naturally, it lacks the power of Phil’s performance – and massive drum fill – but August Christopher attempt to make up for any shortcomings by rocking out during the number’s second half. Criss Cheatham’s solo is certainly a stand out moment and if you listen very carefully, a couple of Steve Price’s bass fills are very smart. Despite their best efforts though, as much fun as it is, it’s hardly essential listening.
‘Supaheat!’ has a rock swagger and sneer delivered by what sounds like a great rock band. While the song itself isn’t immediately catchy, you’ll hear a tough sounding workout anchored by Price on the bass (gaining an upfront delivery for a change). While Price’s pumping bass provides the core of the song, its high points come via Cheatham’s guitar solos (his work throughout this disc is more than commendable). The second half of the track delivers all manner of concept voices and plot – I’m devided as to whether this is cool or whether it’s just fannying about which gets in the way of the music… ‘C’mon Li’l Honey’ follows; it’s a track with plenty of drive, but lacks the focus of the band’s better numbers, proving you can’t just get by on energy alone. Even the guitar solo isn’t up to Cheatham’s usual standard.
While I don’t really go for the slightly religious tone of ‘Brother Jesus’, it’s very strong musically with a heavy bias towards early 90s style funk rock. The wah-wah filled guitar parts are instantly pleasing and Cheatham’s slightly gritty vocal delivery suits the number extremely well. It’s cool and retro and captures each of the band members in good form. Hanging behind the up0front guitars, drummer Corey Boise’s hi-hat work lends itself well to the groove. It’s certainly one of ‘A Brand New Day’s more immediate tracks and one which sounds like it would be a tour-de-force during a live set. ‘All That Matters’ features a few musical elements which call to mind any number of rootsy rock outfits, but August Christopher sound very comfortable in such a setting. It’s retro in a different way to ‘Brother Jesus’, substituting funk for occasional reggae influenced breaks which work against the rootsy base. However, the shouty almost cod-rap breaks which occasionally read their head fare less well… If you wanted to pick a number which captured the band’s mix of styles in one place, though, this’d be the one.
The unfussy ‘Hold On To Me’ features a decent chorus and another country-rock accent, and even though it brings little new to August Christopher’s range of retro rock/pop, it captures them in good form. The title cut closes the album, and from the outset, it sounds like another retro rock work out with its upfront guitars and hard rock drumming, but as the chorus appears, the band change musical style almost completely and deliver something very country-rock influenced. The country moments feel slightly out of place though, especially as Cheatham launches into an absolutely blistering solo just before the number starts to fade. [Fans of the hard rock power-trio sound may delight in the uncredited number which follows shortly after].
Occasionally the between song skits (all part of the concept, y’know) can get slightly annoying and, in places, there’s not a lot of bass in the end mix of the album. In all honesty though, these are minor gripes which don’t detract from the overall enjoyment of ‘A Brand New Day’. For an unsigned act, August Christopher is a band with very professional approach which deserves them a larger audience.