With instrumental abilities that made him a key member of Dwight Yoakam’s band, a voice reminiscent of Jackson Browne and a Top 10 lyrical streak that makes him seem like he’s been writing hook-laden hits for years – Brian Whelan is poised to attract a much wider audience with the release of his second solo album Sugarland.
A music major at the University of Southern California, Whelan can play almost anything that has keys or strings, including steel guitar, accordion and piano, and puts these skills to the test while playing many of them on his new release.
From the opening strains of “Americana,” where he adds the impressive fiddle of Gabe Wichter, to the final notes of “The Bottom,” where Wichter again shows his fiddling prowess, all ten tracks of Sugarland are sweet and give his listeners a taste of his musical greatness. This is country rock at its best.
Other amazing musicians who add to the sound include Herb Pederson, Rami Jaffe, Keith Gattis, Greg Camp, and Ross Flournoy, as well as vocal help from Nicole Eva Emery, Phoebe Bridgers, Jonathan Clark, and Sarah Taylor.
Sugarland was co-produced by fellow Yoakamite and Whelan’s current drummer Mitch Marine, who are joined by Lee Pardini on bass, keys and vocals. The resulting music places Whelan in the same crowd with John Fullbright, Sturgill Simpson, fellow Yoakamite Mike Stinson, and Jason Isbell.
Besides the incredible musicianship, which you would expect from Whelan, what sets Sugarland apart is the lyrics, revealing Whelan’s growth as a songwriter, arranger, and vocalist, as revealed in such highlights as “Americana,” “Sucker Punch,” “Go Dancing,” and “Number 1 Fan.”
The album is a natural extension of Whelan’s debut, Decider, and is much more radio friendly. With the release of Sugarland, he should be well on his way to letting the rest of the world know that he and his music are the real deal.
We are proud to highly recommend Whelan’s Sugarland, which should be in the hands of every true music lover. For more info about him, check out his website and Facebook pages, follow him on Twitter, and search for his music on YouTube.