When Gloriana debuted in 2009 with their singles “Wild At Heart” and “How Far Do You Wanna Go?” off their self-titled album, I was awestruck. With powerful, harmonic, almost joyful vocals, they were exactly the kind of country I like best. The quartet jumped right to the top of my bands-to-watch list. In fact, I went to a Taylor Swift concert with 15,000 screaming teenage girls just to see them. (I did stick around after their set for Miranda Lambert and Taylor, too.)
Three years later, they’ve released their second album , “A Thousand Miles Left Behind”, and the first two singles off the record. But things have changed for the band. Member Cheyenne Kimball has left the group, leaving Rachel Reinert and Tom and Mike Gossin as a trio. Conscious of how Love and Theft’s transition from a trio to a duo affected the strength of their vocals, I wondered how Gloriana would cope with the same problem.
The album opens with “Gold Rush”, about heading out to Hollywood to try and strike it rich and famous – a modern version of the California Gold Rush – before realizing everything they want is back at home. The men take the lead on this one, and you can still hear the harmonies that make Gloriana.
“Sunset Lovin’” was inspired by a couple in a car making out at a festival the band was at. Rachel and the boys take turns conveying that mostly-innocent, trouble-free moment in this quick-paced, upbeat number.
The album’s first single is next. “Wanna Take You Home” is pretty self-explanatory, and it’s been out to radio for over a year. It didn’t chart that highly, but it’s classic Gloriana sound. It’s also easy to dance to, which was intentional. Tom says they conceived it as “a tribute to all the hot women who get up and dance to our songs at shows”.
“(Kissed You) Good Night”, released late last year, is their fastest-rising single to date, and why not? It’s a perfect telling of a universal regret: “I should have kissed you”. The triumph of overcoming that uncertainty and regret brings back the hint of joy that made their 2009 singles such hits. What a great song.
Tom co-wrote the next song, “Carolina Rose”, about his fiancé. It’s quite a personal song, telling of how they fell in love but then broke up when the band went on the road. But the big-time “don’t mean a thing without my Carolina Rose”. I wasn’t sure the first time I heard it, but really listening to the lyrics makes this one of the sweetest love songs I’ve ever heard. What a story – and true, too.
Rachel gets her turn with “Go On…Miss Me”. It’s another take on the cheating boyfriend ending up regretting how he’s treated her and let her go, and she has no sympathy.
In fact, the whole album has a very personal feel. Every song was written by someone in the band, and the personal experiences come through. That said, it can sometimes lack the universality that great artists achieve.
This continues with “Can’t Shake You”, about breaking up with someone who runs in the same circles. The duet quality and a slow, persistent electric guitar make this a unique and captivating song. It’s almost as good as (and aurally similar to) “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum. Almost.
“Soldier Song” is a straightforward tribute to the troops Gloriana has performed for overseas. They wanted it to be upbeat, which it kind of is. At least it ought to be meaningful for those soldiers. Then again, Toby Keith has achieved popular success with jingoistic pro-military songs before, so who knows.
“Turn My World Around” is another soft and sweet love song. The lyrics “I was all but lost, I was nowhere-bound/You came along and turned my world around,” sum it up.
“We wanted to capture the essence of being a young adult – where you’re still young, but you have your freedom,” Rachel says of the second-last song, “Doin’ It Our Way”. They capture the spirit pretty well in this upbeat (if a little generic) track.
Finally, it’s back to their roots with “Where My Heart Belongs”, a song that Rachel says describes the innocence of childhood. It’s a little bittersweet, which I suppose is the right emotion to evoke. You can easily imagine the childhood scenes she sings about.
One of Gloriana’s enduring strengths is their co-gender lead singing. It gives them a variety that few other acts can match, and it’s put to great use on this album, even with the loss of one of their female leads. Each song has a different sound, based on the vocal combinations. Underlying that, though, is a constant Gloriana sound.
Aside from the two songs released already, expect “Can’t Shake You” to be a popular single. “Turn My World Around” and “Carolina Rose” might find radio success, too.
After their evolution into a trio, the band claim they’ve finally found their place. “This is us, Gloriana,” says Mike.
I wouldn’t be so quick to finalize. To me, this seems like a stepping stone on their way to even greater things. If Gloriana can learn to harness their unique sound in consistently interesting and more universal songs, they’ll be even better.
“A Thousand Miles Left Behind” hit stores July 31.