Something Wicked is a decent listen. To even the most untrained ear, the attraction of Skye Wallace’s music is obvious. Between her incredible range and her ability to write a catchy hook, her strengths shine through on these nine recordings. After just one listen, ear worms have been planted and the melodies of the album start to rattle around your head. By the second spin, you will already be familiar with the majority of the album. So in that it succeeds; it is simple and effective. But Wallace’s take on folk pop is, unfortunately, not unheard of or even that uncommon. Every song summons thoughts glazed by the sepia lenses of nostalgia: wayward feelings of sitting in the back of my mother’s car as she popped in yet another Springsteen tape. While the subtle indie flourishes of the songs bring Wallace’s sound into the current decade, it’s obvious that Something Wicked channels the ghosts of folk heroes that, for better or for worse, haunt the American country scene.
Country music always seems to be looking back. Perhaps this is more than just a lyrical troupe; maybe it is this idealization of the past that steers newcomers down the same beaten path again and again. So is this where my ability to relate ends? My exposure to country and folk has always been second hand and I may lack the romantic taste needed to enjoy it. Has Wallace then succeeded in creating yet another collection of songs dressed for the neon jukeboxes of North American backwaters? Is this ultimately the resting place of all good independent country music? Maybe what I deem as a problem is the true success of folk and country — music so immersed in it’s own context that forgoing form would mean abandoning the genre all together.
But, for a moment, Wallace does show us an ability to escape the restraints of the genre. The closing track, “Work of Status,” offers a song almost entirely stripped of its country flavour, providing a simple yet effective pop-rock tune that shines amongst the dirt dusted barnyard rompers that come before it. This song is more evidently the odd star of the album when compared to “Stronghold,”, a sing-along track with an almost painfully obvious hook sure to rouse the patrons of highway bars across Canada.
Skye Wallace is a competent musician and a gifted singer who is almost effortlessly melodic. If you’re into foot tapping anthems to kick up the dust, then you’ll probably find what you’re looking for in Something Wicked. So, crack open a cold one and enjoy the ride. But if country and folk has never quite been your bag, then it’s unlikely this album will do anything to sway your opinion. These songs will be nothing more special than the music that seeps from The Bourbon as you pass by.