The Great Divide PROVIDENCE

The Great Divide

A Spectacular Harvest of Glistening New Songs Farmed From the Hopeful Fields of Red Dirt Alt-Country.

Three decades ago, I was in a totally different life place and nowhere physically or musically near Stillwater, Oklahoma: but if I had been, I bet these Red Dirt Alt-Country giants would have been a totally irresistible riot to experience in a County Store or Music Hall.
Perhaps then it is my own brand of ‘Providence’ for this album to land on my doorstep from RMHQ.
For a band who have just recorded their first album in 20 years, there is an understandable level of interest, expectation and intrigue and it feels like a new Dawn for this well-seasoned band.

The opener ‘Wrong Is Overrated’ encapsulates the whole album in one fell swoop. It’s as catchy as it is confessional, assessing the damage which contributed to the band’s break up in 2003 (rock n roll stuff of too much drinkin’ and in-fightin’) with a mature acceptance of his share of the blame from frontman and songwriter Mike McClure.
His self-assured driving vocals power the track and easily convince me of his sincerity, interwoven with a deep joy that time has healed and paved the way for a glorious reconciliation.
The Country dirt has been dug deep as is tradition with this band, to hit gritty sharp edged-rock with a hefty guitar riff that reels you in so fast that you believe no matter how the rest of the album pans out, it’s been worth the spin for this track alone:

I’m a little older now and my memories are faded
Of when I made such a mess, when things got complicated
And all the things that I love the best
Are things that I have sometimes hated
But I caught myself before I got too jaded

The band ease back after all that drama with “I Can Breathe Again”, a dreamscape, soul tuggin’ ballad. It’s delectable with melodic steel layering a bygone pathos and the bright lead guitar playfully expressing newfound joy as a backdrop to this exquisitely produced track. It portrays the love story between frontman Mike McClure and his wife Chrislyn Laurence.
‘My Sweet Lily’ expands this theme more as he sings
You’re my redemption for the miles I have travelled.
No doubt this relationship is key inspiration for the songwriter’s new creative chapter.

It’s only now I am realising that this is an album stacking the brightest of layers.
Heartfelt songs for his partner and appreciation for his band of brothers who have emerged stronger for this fresh start, together leads us nicely to “Good Side”.
The sun drenched, hope-laden vocals grab you from the off, the jaunty guitar raises the mood to a feel-good factor eleven and yet it is the dazzling dancing organ keys of Bryce Conway which hog the brightest limelight, deliriously bubbling positivity.
Very apt as Bryce was instrumental to encouraging The Great Divide back into the studio after such a long break.

This band’s irresistible journey carries on with the heavier weight ‘Set It All Down’, a post-pandemic wish for us all to make a fresh start to the rest of our lives.
Understandable after such a long break releasing new material, we get their message loud and clear: time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted!
Cue the surprise track on the album for me, ‘Slipping Away’ is a reggae-steeled Twangtastic exceptional up-tempo slice of good times, making me want to kick shoes off and feel the sand between my toes as I dance.
The keys bounce the surf with the whole track radiating holiday happiness whilst reminding us that time stands still for no-one.

‘Heaven Is High’ and ‘Until We Cross’ explore more spiritual themes, both awash with serene hope but my favourite song just happens to be the final track and what a way for this band to wrap things up!

‘Infinite Line’ hits us like a runaway train running on a full tank of Bluesy Rock with the organ keys again raising the temperature to one of sizzlin’ hot coals that glow a warning for us all to make every day count.
Having reached an age myself where some good friends have been lost, this final song has lyrics inspired by exactly that and it really strikes an emotional chord:

“Nothing hits ya quite as hard
As when you start losing friends
I bet you think that they’ll be there
With you until the end
And in a way I suppose they are
If you keep them in mind
Keep ‘em in your heart as well
And they’ll show up all the time
They’ll show up right on time”

Older, wiser but a band brimming with fresh spirit and energy, this is one glistening release in which they showcase a brand new crop of mature Red Dirt songs. A comeback that will no doubt please their loyal fan-base and at the same time scoop up many more new followers along the way. I can vouch for that.

Review by Anita Joyce

Released 28th October 2022


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