Released: July 14, 2008
Label: Say Rah Records
By: William Butler
There are three main types of bands in today's complicated musical landscape; those that know exactly what genre or niche they want to be classified as, those that don't know what they want to be and don't care, and those that seem to be in the process of defining themselves but apparently can't make up their minds about what type of music they want to play. A Night in the Box falls firmly into the third category in their new album "Write a Letter". The main influences are easily identifiable: A guitar and violin dominant gypsy/nomad style competing with a blues-rock approach that sounds much like the White Stripes along with vocals that are eerily similar to former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant. In fact, at times throughout the song one almost might start to wonder if Led Zeppelin had modernized and morphed into an indie rock band. So, it's obvious that A Night in the Box is not going to blaze any new trails in the increasingly populated world of genres and sub-genres. Thankfully, the band makes up for the lack of originality with solid musicianship and songwriting to create a very good album.
The weak musical moments on this CD are few, so they'll be dispensed with first. The vocalist is usually solid (he's no Robert Plant, but he's not bad), however the constant exploration of his vocal range doesn't always end in success. More consistency would have been nice. Also, the last song would have better been left off or refined because, frankly, it's mostly bad all around. There is being out of tune for the sake of dissonance, and then there's…well…just sounding plain awful. That's what happens on "Return to Me," and it isn't pretty.
Alright, now that that is out of the way, the good moments on "Write a Letter" are many. "The Garden" is a decent effort with heavy influences of Zeppelin and bluegrass, the gypsy instrumental "The Legend of Kevin Mitsch" is a fantastic display of the band's prowess on violin and guitar, "West Texas" is a good listen and "Empty Handed Blues is an entertaining rocker as well as a great case study of what happens when you mash White Stripes-esque instrumentals with Robert Plant-like solo wailings on vocals. All of the songs mentioned above are, frankly, a rollicking good time, and they make this album worth checking out. While it may not be one of the best albums this year, "Write A Letter" certainly rises above today's metaphorical swamp of mediocre music and can be characterized as a solid effort.