Heard Lately #4: Ally Venable Band-Texas Honey review
Haiku of contrition:
More than noodling.
Ally Venable has taste.
Mmmm. Tasty noodles.
Artist: Ally Venable Band
Album: Texas Honey
Release date: March 22, 2019
The deal. I try not to read the promotional materials that come along with albums so I don’t have any preconceived notions about a record or an artist. It’s sort of like blinding a peer review. Very sort of… I reviewed Ally Venable’s sophomore album last year and thought it was good after a few listens. I was shocked to look at the one-sheet and learn she was just 18. Her third album, Texas Honey, is also very good. It’s solid blues rock from a strong singer and talented guitarist.
Venable does a great job writing blues rock that sounds familiar-yet-different. She’s not shattering any genres, but rather working effectively within parameters. For instance, “Broken” has elements of pop country, driven by a chugging rhythm and a pretty melody. But it’s elevated by a melodic solo, with tasteful tone and an impressive sense of drama. The solo has moments of speed, but also slower, thoughtful sections, which makes it feel more like a composition than woodshedding.
That deliberateness is what’s impressive about Venable. There’s a maturity to her playing that you won’t see in players three times her age. Her guitar work always draws from the song. She can throw hot licks into a track, but when she does, it’s strategic. It’s not because she’s just reflexively running through scales.
Venable wrote or co-wrote all of the album’s songs. One of her covers is Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Love Struck Baby.” Covering a blues rock legend like Vaughan is always a bold move. How are you going to improve one of his songs? How do you out Vaughan Vaughan? In Venable’s case, she does so by leaning into her youth, playing up the track’s 50s vibe to give it a Jenny Lewis energy. But of course, Venable delivers on the guitar work, too.
Straight talk. Venable is still finding her legs as a songwriter. She writes about topics like love, but in a broad, unspecific way. It’s a normal trajectory for such a young artist. Right now she’s a talented performer and guitarist, but I think she can eventually become more of a serious songwriting threat, like Gary Clark, Jr.
The confession. I didn’t pick this up until a few days ago. I sort of thought someone might assign it to me, but it didn’t happen, which is a shame, because Venable is an interesting, talented artist. I wish I had been more proactive placing this.
Closing arguments. It’s cool to see an artist grow. In a weird way, I’d rather hear someone grow over three albums than just start with a stellar debut. The longitudinal journey can be much more compelling than instant genius. Blues rock fans should give Venable and her band a listen. While she’s not reinventing the format, she’s working within it quite well. If her arc continues, she’ll eventually find her own voice. Venable’s albums are good and keep getting better. Texas Honey works well, but I’m looking forward to album number four.
So much amazing music comes out all of the time. I review what I can as quickly as I can, working my physical and digital piles as efficiently as possible, but things fall between the cracks. Rather than giving up on things that are a little past their prime, contemporary-review-standards-wise, I’m going back for the overflow that deserves to be heard — even if it’s a little late.