An In-Depth Look at Little Raine Band's 'Dreamwalker' March 19, 2019 16:15
Words by Jordan Kirkland: Live & Listen
The state of Alabama has long played an integral role in the development of American music, most notably blues and country. The groundwork of a rich musical culture was laid in the early 20th century, and the resulting influence can be felt more than ever today. This culture continues to serve as a hotbed for diverse, vibrant music from across the musical spectrum. Somewhere between the realm of jazz and psychedelia, you'll find Birmingham's Little Raine Band, who have been grinding across the Southeast for the better part of a decade.
It's been nearly four years since the release of Liveheart, LRB's first full length album. As you might expect, the band has accumulated an arsenal of new originals since 2015. To the excitement of many, rumors of a new release began circulating over the last year. These rumors became a reality on March 8th when the band released their sophomore album, Dreamwalker. While live recordings have their own unique appeal, there's nothing quite like hearing those studio cuts for the first time. It's always exciting getting your hands on an album you have anxiously awaited, and Dreamwalker was worth every minute of anticipation.
This album has the feel of a concept piece, ultimately telling a story as one track leads into the next. It's never a bad idea to start off with a heavy hitter, and that's exactly what they did. The title track, "Dreamwalker," sets the tone immediately as Daniel Raine (keyboards/vocals) subtly lures you in. The rhythm section couldn't be tighter on this one. Drummer Justin Sledge drives the band straight into the opening verse, and there you get your first taste of Isaiah Smith's unmistakable slap bass lines. Davis Little (guitar) is a master of his craft, and "Dreamwalker" features an impressive balance of heavy riffs and scorching solos. These elements are complimented by Raine's soft, raspy vocals in what truly feels like a stroll through one's dream.
As "Dreamwalker" peacefully dwindles, the transition into "Fiery Hoop" begins. The soft, tasteful clapping which precedes Little's opening guitar riff is the perfect touch. LRB has always done a phenomenal job showcasing the vocals of both Raine and Little, who takes the lead on "Fiery Hoop." I find myself coming back to this track several times a day. The lyrics are clever, powerful, and inspiring. The guitar work is uplifting and nostalgic, and the tune as a whole is pretty damn catchy. These are the characteristics of a great song. I expect this tune to stay in heavy personal rotation for the foreseeable future.
The dream-like state is revisited as the band works its way into "Trying to Fly." The lyrics allude to a struggle in which we can all relate to: "Here I am, just trying to fly. Just can't get my feet off the ground. Too many things, keep fogging my mind. Just can't figure it out." There is a very ambient vibe which ultimately drops into a killer jazz section. Another beautiful showcase of the skill that all four members bring to the table. Sledge and Smith keep things tight and creative, making way for Little and Raine to work their magic.
"Fooling Around" drifts back towards the upbeat, danceable melodies that you feel during "Fiery Hoop." I find myself following Sledge's every move behind the kit here. You're gonna want to get up dance to this one. Maybe do a little "Fooling Around" yourself? Little once again delivers an inspiring message, and it's one of those songs that puts a smile on your face. Any time you have Taylor Hunnicutt lending a hand on vocals, you're in for a treat. She adds a special component that very few are capable of.
Things calm down a bit with "No Man's Land," and the band steers back into that dream-like state. The versatility of this group is what makes them so special, and this song proves that as much as any. Little is best known for his complex riffs and mind-bending solos, but he's equally impressive on the pedal steel. "No Man's Land" makes that perfectly clear, while making room for some blissful harmony vocals as well.
I experienced some serious deja vu when the opening notes of "Artificial Love" hit. While a handful of these songs have a familiar sound, this is an LRB original that I've grown to know and love over the years. You'll hear that classy, elegant jazz sound that the band has perfected in their young career. Tragic City's Desmond Sykes takes you to church on the sax, while Raine attempts to guide you to another galaxy. Smith digs deep on the low end, and things get nice and weird before you know it. The band ultimately lands back in that familiar jazz-driven bliss that is sure to make you dance.
The synth vibes are strong with "Other Side." I can't decide whether this tune feels more like a scene from Stranger Things or an early 90's video game, but I dig it. You really get a taste of Raine's entire arsenal here. Sledge shines on each transition, and Little never fails to deliver some tasteful licks.
The final track comes in the form of "Settled Sun." I'm not sure if the band ever really leaves the dream-like state, but you can definitely feel it throughout this tune. Smith's graceful playing stands out from the opening notes. They couldn't have finished in more appropriate fashion. A multi-layered, complex tune on all fronts. This band has a lot of jazzy moments, but "Settled Sun" might take the cake.
As I mentioned earlier, this release has been on my radar for some time. LRB would be the first to tell you that this was past due. At the end of the day, some great things take time, patience, and persistence. The band's loyal fans now have another serious piece of music to sink their teeth into. "Dreamwalker" was every bit as impressive as we've come to expect from this band. The Birmingham-based four-piece seems poised for its biggest year year. This album will stand the test of time as a pillar of the band's existence.
Stream the album in its entirety here: