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Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5) Artist: Melanie Rose Dyer
Title: The Long Way Around
Review by Bryan Rodgers

The Long Way Around was a long time coming for Nashville singer/songwriter Melanie Rose Dyer. After starting, ending, and re-starting a career in the music business over the last 30 years, Dyer finally had the opportunity to put some of her experiences and emotions into song, and the result is The Long Way Around – 11 tracks of music informed in varying part by American roots music, blues, country, folk, and rock. The heartfelt style of songwriting heard on the album brings to mind chart-topping country acts, while the musical spirit and instrumentation nod to the familial Nashville scene and a broader palette of musical styles. The sophisticated blues sound of Bonnie Raitt, the pop-focused country of Reba McEntire, and the traditional foundation of soul, blues, and R&B all combine for an experience that is at once gritty and polished. Dyer is joined by a core band of two guitarists and drummer, with bass, keyboard, and backing vocal roles filled by a rotating cast. Along with notable guest musicians like guitarist extraordinaire Jack Pearson (Allman Brothers Band) and vocalist Shaun Murphy (formerly of Little Feat), the group commence to making a big sound that bleeds red, white, and blue. There’s nothing more American than a woman with a big voice bred in the rural south singing songs of sorrow and uncertainty over gospel-tinged R&B grooves, and that’s just what listeners will get from the first beat of this record.

Every minute of the album drips with soul, starting with Dyer and Murphy’s stirring singing on “First Time In Forever.” Glen Duncan and Mike Durham bounce their guitars off of each other in the most satisfying way, each adding a unique tone. An extended guitar solo over a stomping bed of bass and organ send the track out with gusto. “I Don’t Wanna Walk” is a smoother, poppier tune, catchier in a radio-ready kind of way. It’s midtempo, middle-American airwave rock, as ready for mass consumption as any Lady Antebellum or Carrie Underwood hit. “Get Out of My Own Way” and “Too Fast For Traffic” combine some of the bluesy swagger with shimmering melodies, making for a sound that falls somewhere between The E Street Band and Melissa Etheridge. Pearson ups the ante of aggression with his searing slide guitar work on “I’ll Love Again,” shocking Dyer’s playful song of satisfaction with sharp charges of energy. He also adds atmosphere to the truck-stop stomp of “I Can’t Cross That Line,” adding extra gravitas to a chorus as big as the Midwestern sky.

With her considerable human experiences and sound musical upbringing working in tandem, Dyer is able to craft songs as infectious as any songwriting collective around. As is to be expected, love and relationships are a frequent topic. Jim Horn’s saxophone lends a slick, romantic vibe to the come-hither lyrics of “The Rain Is On My Side,” which re-imagines the plot of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” where the singer uses inclement weather as an avenue to try and detain the object of their desire. Dyer channels the melodramatic big ballads of the 1980’s with “If I Never Say,” again producing a hummable, harmonized hook over a base of completely inoffensive adult-oriented rock. On the spiritualized title track, Dyer looks deep inside herself to find a narrative that reconciles her personal journey through love, loss, and rebirth, and the result is a standout song that brilliantly incorporates gospel elements to get the point across. But perhaps no other song on the album is as deeply revealing as “The Lord Himself Came,” which remembers her late husband. The overall result of Dyer and the band’s hard work on The Long Way Around is the kind of music that comes with memories built in and songs that sound familiar the instant listeners hear them. The music has the power to change and embellish another person’s life just as it did for Dyer.

Review by Bryan Rodgers

Melanie R Dyer   Melanie Rose Dyer, Nashville, United States

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