The previous album from Murfreesboro, TN’s The Great Affairs (2010’s ‘Ricky Took The Wheels’) wasn’t a cast iron classic, but featured some great rootsy pop/rock tunes nonetheless. During the first half of 2011, Great Affairs frontman Denny Smith turned his time towards other projects, including work his other band fORMER. In between recording sessions for a fORMER LP, Smith and co recorded a handful of acoustic based numbers, which are presented on this EP. While Smith is quick to point out this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of The Great Affairs forever, ‘Happy Endings’ is designed to provide a little closure for the first part of their career.
Whereas ‘Wheels’ showcased a mix of acoustic works and upbeat rock sounds from The Great Affairs’ repertoire, this EP is mellow – it’s six numbers concentrating more on the band’s acoustic rock and alt-country elements. And since the previous full-length’s strongest parts were often its most laid-back, this release really shows the guys on top form.
‘Sick For Love’ sets the mood for most of the EP with its twin acoustic guitar framework. Although it’s the solid rhythmic qualities providing the song’s main thrust, the featured solo (also acoustic based) has a timeless air. These elements, when mixed with Smith’s slightly raspy voice, make this number comparable to The Faces in a rather melancholy mood. ‘If I Know You’ doesn’t do much to change that said mood – but in honesty, it doesn’t need to. There’s more of a harmony vocal than before (one which, perhaps, could have been a bit stronger), but the unfussy, Connells-esque arrangement is decent enough. ‘Stay Pretty’ features some top-notch slide acoustic/dobro work, while Matt Andersen’s basslines provide some great musical flourishes. As is often the case, you’ll have heard similar stuff from various other Americana/acoustic bands, but even so, The Great Affairs more than hold their own here. The superb arrangement makes it ‘Happy Ender’s best number – and it’s up against some strong competition.
For those looking for something with a more instant chorus, ‘Wild One’ is a track which more than supplies. With a very memorable hook and vocal harmonies, this number would already be a strong one, but the addition of some electric guitar leads (very much in the country rock mould) really round out the sound. It’s a shame the vocal seems to have been subjected to autotuning (purely for effect) on a couple of lines, but not to an extent it would spoil an otherwise great track. ‘See The Stars’ features another good mix of acoustic and electric guitar work, this time the electric leads come with a subtle ringing quality. Musically, it’s great and should please all but the most stubborn fans of this kind of roots rock. The songwriting doesn’t grab instantly, though, but a few plays in the pleasing melodies on the chorus start to stand out. In contrast, ‘Bird on a Wire’ is definitely the EP’s rockiest number, since the acoustics are joined by an electric lead throughout. Patrick Miller’s work is often sympathetic to the softer qualities of the music – his leads occasionally no more than punctuation – but by the track’s end, he can’t hold it in any longer. During this rock-out moment, the band cut loose a little and Miller turns in a solo which would befit The Black Crowes, The Quireboys and their ilk. It’s missing the good-time pub-rock piano, but even so, it’s a great number which sounds like it would work well within a live setting.
And so, after two full-length releases, these six songs close the door on the first part of a career. If you liked ‘Ricky Took The Wheels’, chances are, you’ll really like ‘Happy Ender’. If this is goodbye – at least for now – those who are likely to miss The Great Affairs have been given a superb parting gift.