Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
A lot has happened to Love and Theft since they debuted in 2009. They're down to a trio - Eric Gunderson and Stephen Barker Liles - since Brian Bandas left two years ago. They've switched labels as well, and instead of being forgotten after one hit single (Runaway
), they're emerging again thanks to the single and lead-off track Angel Eyes.
There's more than that going on though. Gunderson and Liles both sing well, trading leads and harmonizing often with each other (If You Ever Get Lonely, Thinking of You (And Me)). The style tends to be fast with catchy sing-alongs, although they slow it down quite nicely and show a lot of diversity on Amen, with soulful vocals and rhythmic handclaps throughout, and the heartfelt Town Drunk, where a girl deals with her alcoholic father with lots of pedal steel.
They endure a serious misstep only on the funky, disco beats of Runnin' Out of Air, which just doesn't fit with the rest of the material.
LAT seem to mine a few ideas among the 11 songs - starting with the idea of religious references (the main character in the catchy Angel Eyes is a preacher's daughter "with a little bit of devil in her angel eyes" and "she must be heaven sent" later in Amen near the outset of the CD. Interestingly, both Liles' and Gunderson's fathers are pastors.
They go the chick route by closing with the slower, less than stellar lyrically She's Amazing (although the vocals click), the rocking, radio ready Girls Love to Shake It (bringing Luke Bryan to mind although the songs have nothing in common musically) and the mid-tempo closer, Girls Look Hot in Trucks, which the duo wrote with brothers Warren.
Fortunately, producer Josh Leo pretty much steered the ship the right way for Love and Theft. Cutting the songs live in the studio was a smart move as well with a lot of acoustic guitars, some pedal steel while usually not overwhelming the singing with the instruments.
Love and Theft may have been gone for a long time in a world - an eternity in music - but they managed to not only survive the changes, but mostly thrive here as well.