Reivers Add a Second Story After 22-Year Hiatus
The album title Second Story could have two meanings for The Reivers: It's a second act for a beloved 1980s band that was a contender for national success. The stage curtain on the album cover hints at that, as did their retaking the name The Reivers after playing for a few recent years as Right or Happy. And, maybe, after building a foundation and first floor of musical achievements from 1984 to 1991, the title implies how the group has constructed a new level of artistry on its first new album release since Pop Beloved over two decades ago.
In their day, before anyone was calling AusTown a "live music capital," The Reivers were one of a number of young acts playing the local clubs as a potential springboard to a national and maybe even global stage. They snagged a deal with the Atlanta indie DB Records – under their first moniker Zeitgeist – and then graduated to a major label, Capitol Records. Despite all best efforts and four fine long-players who won critical favor, the foursome of singer/guitarist John Croslin, singer/guitarist Kim Longacre, bassisy Cindy Toth and drummer Garrett Williams never broke through to a level that could have sustained the group as a fulltime pursuit, at least financially.
Sure, other factors contributed to their 1991 split. But the odds were that such a result was almost inevitable.
Now older, wiser, and presumably in it this time fully for the music rather than any path to the big-time, they've made an album that delivers on their considerable promise. Second Story brims with poise, focus, confidence, intelligence and a cunning yet utterly natural sounding use of the gifts of the band at their best. Or in a word (plus one): artistic maturity.
Time apart and life and experience enhanced the group's cohesion and interplay, and John Croslin's work as a producer and engineer with such bands as Spoon and The Wannabes inform the sound. The music unfolds with an organic flow as one absorbs it in lay-back-and-listen mode; closer ears reveal a canny attention to arrangement and nuance.
The Reivers in their 1987 hometown heyday
Second Story begins by evoking Richard and Linda Thompson echoes heard in the Croslin/Longacre duets and even thematically with "All The Drunks Say Amen," a dynamic also heard on the bristling "Take Cover." The reference also signals a folk sense of grace that pervades this decidedly electric album, as well as the tensile power of skillfully interwoven voices on the CD's closing triptych: the supple reassuring hug of "Please Don't Worry," the haunted march of "Confidence" and the trademark Reivers splice of jangle'n'crunch on "Back At You."
Yes, Second Story may not have the peppy propulsion of some of the band's best moments of yore. This is grown up pop-rock, and as such the songs find people in emotional margins, dilemmas and junctures that are the stuff of real life.
It's a tribute to the power of an ensemble in which all shine, whether subtly or in the forefront. The metronomic snap of Williams and Toth's buoyant melodics provide a firm musical mattress for everyone else to comfortably reside atop. New member Eric Friend earns MVP honors by piquantly adorning every track with splashes of keyboard pastels and earth tones. Longacre is the combo's special sauce, her bell chime of voice sweetening Croslin's wry and droll rattle on the peppery pop-rocker "Liar," stepping to the front with liquid clarity on "Red Hand" and "Poor Diane," and weaving counterpoints thoughout. She embodies a line from one of the songs: "When she sings we all line up forever/Cause we know she'll make us feel that way." Croslin acts as center pole, compass and possibly mad genius on an 11-track disc that draws on the band's variegated sound to create a refreshed, and even more cohesive, trademark musical brand.
In Austin, there has always been rich musical life well after not making it big. The Reivers set a standard for any of today's young aspirants to hope for if they're still at it three decades from now. And do themselves and their hometown proud with a Second Story that augurs more satisfying chapters to come.
The Reivers at the Dog and Duck Pub during SXSW 2009
(Hidden editorial track: So when will we hear a new True Believers album?)