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
Rating: 4.5 Stars (out of 5)


Artist: Melanie Rose Dyer
Album: The Long Way Around
Reviewed by Matthew Warnock

Country and Blues are musical genres that seem to blend together seamlessly, allowing artists to flow between the two, or borrow from one or the other without losing touch with their roots and artistic intent. Vocalist and songwriter Melanie Rose Dyer knows the deep relationship that these two genres share, and her album The Long Way Around slides between the two with the greatest of ease and the utmost respect for both musical traditions. While she may delve into bluesy guitar solos and country grooves, one thing that remains the same throughout the record is the high level of musicianship and the obvious dedication that she puts into her songwriting, resulting in an album that will not only appeal to fans of country and blues, but to fans of any modern, radio-friendly music.

Songs like the opener, “First Time in Forever,” remind one of the bluesy influenced country tracks of Bonnie Raitt, with even a slight tip of the hat to Tracey Chapman in the deep tone of the guitar work that weaves its way in and out of the vocals. Featuring two rhythm-guitar tracks, a low and powerful riff that drives the groove and a higher, more chordal based part, the song is full of groove, which is characteristic of the band’s work throughout the album. The strong groove allows Dyer to float her vocals over the rhythm parts with ease, and when the guitar solo kicks in things really heat up. The solo is bluesy in nature, but not over the top, reflecting Dyer’s respect for the melody on the song, the guitar solo builds off of her melodic phrasing, using chops only when needed to bring the solo to a musical climax.

On “I Don’t Wanna Walk,” Dyer slows things down and borrows a chord progression from the classic days of early Rock n Roll in order to express her lyrical content. The muted guitar part is perfect for framing the vocal lines of the verse stanzas, with the arpeggiated, distorted guitar lines lending a more legato feel to the guitar part. As well, the counter melody that creeps up in the background vocals during the chorus section is carefully and creatively written to highlight the melody line without repeating it exactly. This kind of attention to detail is one of the reasons the album is so successful. Often times, it is the little things that differentiate a good album from a great album, and Dyer has put in the extra effort to ensure that nothing falls flat and no detail goes unnoticed, from both a songwriting and arranging perspective.

Of course there are tracks that are pure country, such as the toe-tapping “Too Fast for Traffic.” Featuring a classic country guitar riff and fills, the groove drives the vocals and lead lines home as the band cranks up the energy on a tune that will get folks out of their seats and on the dance floor country-wide. By mixing in more pure country tracks with the bluesy influenced songs, Dyer is allowing fans of country music to enjoy these songs, but at the same time easing non-country fans into her music, allowing them to check out songs that they might otherwise ignore. Reaching out to a wide audience can be a tricky task to accomplish for the modern songwriter, but Dyer accomplishes this with ease. Some songs are blends of country, blues and even a little rock and pop, while others are more strictly country, providing for an all-around musical experience that fans of all backgrounds can enjoy.

Reviewed by Matthew Warnock
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)