Given the fact that the duo known as The Small Glories boasts a main member with substantial name recognition, anticipation for what follows is already a forgone conclusion. Cara Luft, a founding member of The Wailin' Jennys and a solo artist in her own right, can bank on a respectable reputation that guarantees inherent interest right from the start. Her partner in this endeavour - singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist JD Edwards - isn't as well known, but he brings a certain caché and credibility to the project regardless, thanks in large part to extensive roadwork and his ongoing efforts at the helm of his own band over the past 10 years.
Joined by a talented crew of fellow travellers, Luft and Edwards have turned release of The Small Glories' debut into an unexpectedly auspicious occasion, thanks to a ruggedly dynamic collection of songs gleaned from a homespun perspective. There's nothing here that attempts to pierce any parameters, and yet the band spins their material with a clear authority and weathered resilience that belies their rookie status. "1000 Stars" and "Home" have the same kind of shout-out, hyper charged refrain that The Lumineers have used to their advantage, while the wistful but resilient "Holding On" solidifies the album's indelible imprint. And regardless of whether the tunes are powered by a solitary pluck - as in the case of opener "Had I Paid" - or a pace that's more resolute - such as "Fast Turning World" - the songs offer an instant allure, giving reason to listen again and again, simply because they're well worth reliving.
In the end, "Wondrous Traveller" reflects the sum of its strengths - Luft's seasoned prowess, Edwards' obvious dexterity, and the rest of the band's ability to caress the arrangements and solidify the stance. Wondrous? Well, perhaps. Compelling? Clearly, no doubt.