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The Band Perry

Pioneer – 2013 (Universal Republic)

Reviewed by Sam Gazdziak

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Sports fans may be familiar with the term "sophomore slump," where a player has an excellent rookie season, but then struggles mightily in his second. With "Pioneer," The Band Perry demonstrates that the phrase can carry over to the music world as well. Where the group's debut was quirky and showed real potential, their second release takes some artistic steps backwards while developing a more mainstream sound.

The lead single and opening track, Better Dig Two, also doubles as the best song. Part devotional and two parts creepy, Kimberly Perry establishes herself as a Gothic country-bluegrass queen. Too often, however, The Band Perry drifts away from the acoustic-based sound and embraces a louder, pop-rock sound that wipes away everything that makes them stand out.

DONE. (yes, in all caps and with punctuation) is a loud, bombastic kiss-off song where Perry tries to step into the same territory as country-pop divas like Carrie and Miranda, but she falls short. In Night Gone Wasted, she forsakes singing entirely and just screams out part of the chorus. Any subtlety that made If I Die Young such a sublime moment is lost in favor of electric guitars and drums that overwhelm the Perry siblings entirely.

I Saw a Light is a more successful melding of these two styles, where a fiddle and tin whistle co-exist with a modern country arrangement. Mother Like Mine is a lovely tribute to the Perry matriarch. These softer moments don't come around often enough on "Pioneer," but when they do, they're a reminder of what made this trio so unique in the first place. It's a shame that their originality all too often gets buried beneath a wall of contemporary country-rock noise.