Far and away, one of my favorite bands making their way through the Gainesville local circuit over the past few years has got to be Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands. So, when I saw Waylon Thornton had just released a solo album, Pale Jewel, I jumped at the chance to review it for all you fine ladies and gentlemen. Just before heading out of town for the 4th of July holiday, I checked out their Bandcamp page to download Pale Jewel and noticed Waylon had also just posted a six song E.P. entitled Born To Dig. I will be out of town for a couple days. What the hell? I’ll review both! I thought and hit the road to the beach with rock ‘n’ roll in hand. Through all the sun, sand and sudsy brews, I was not disappointed in the slightest bit. This li’l family duo has been playing around town for around five years now, so you should know their back story by now. What you really need to know about them, is that for these two, “scaled down” does not in any sense mean simplified. Their music is some of the catchiest, most energetic and well written Gainesville is hearing and seeing right now. Other publications have said their music makes them “happy,” and while the music can certainly be considered upbeat, I suspect there is something slightly more sinister behind it. Sort of like getting a room full of people singing a chorus they don’t know is all about fuckin’.
What exactly makes Pale Jewel a solo album? To be honest, I am not really sure. There are acoustic forays that may seem unfamiliar if you’ve missed any of their recent performances. Maybe Waylon did put down the guitar and record himself playing drums. I suspect it to be the case but actually, who is playing what is largely irrelevant. All the wittiness you’d expect to find from the Heavy Hands, you will find with Pale Jewel. There are lots of “heys” and “yeahs,” but more important… stories of sneaking off in the middle of the night, rock ‘n’ roll and all the trappings that come with being born to this geographic region. Songs like “Southern Born”, “Baby In Reeds” and “Rock N’ Roll” again and again reflect these themes. The album starts with “Old Fire Lines.” Its haunting vocals and infectious hooks set the foundation for the rest of the album. Second up is “American Heart,” which is a great song with a catchy, simple drum beat that will stay with you all day the very first time you hear it. You’ll be tapping your feet before you even know a single lyric. Don’t worry, by the time the lyrics sink in you’ll already be hooked. “Creatures of the Night” is my favorite of the acoustic songs on the album. You don’t need anyone to tell you what this song is about if you’ve ever slipped out of your parents’ house in the middle of the night. Or been the brother sent out into the night after them, either. Regardless of how long ago it may have been, the feelings are captured here. Ultimately, this has to be my favorite on this album. Having a favorite though, should not take away from the other seven tracks. All are great in their own right. As much as I loved what I had heard from Pale Jewel, I knew I had another recording that had me rearing to listen.
After Pale Jewel, I knew I’d be in for a treat with Born To Dig E.P. and starting right off with the title track, you’ll know this recording isn’t playing around either. This recording starts off with all the energy and excitement that is fitting for a band that has recently shared the stage with surf rock royalty. Like a bolt from the sky, “Born To Dig” is the perfect intro with a chorus only an anthropology major or utility worker could appreciate. With songs “My Kinda Girl,” “Learn To Swim,” “Hello Everyone” and “Sweetheart,” I find myself looking forward to any and all upcoming releases, whatever the incarnation. However, “A1A” for me was the highlight of the E.P. It was the perfect track touring around Butler Beach for the 4th of July holiday. Plundering the convenience stores for patriotic beer cans, singing the chorus “A1A eee yay, take me away…” was almost as comical as strolling out of Alvin’s with your tourist grab bag whistling it to yourself. This is a great E.P. and I hope reflects the direction WTHH are headed in the future.
Maybe in a perfect world each of these recordings would have been reviewed separately. To be absolutely honest, I don’t see how I could have done it. I am not really sure I even reviewed them properly here. What I am sure of is each of these recordings are absolutely required for your tours around North Central Florida this summer. Without a doubt, I strongly urge everyone to pick up both of these recordings at the band’s Bandcamp page. If you’re out on the town, you can see Waylon Thornton and the Heavy Hands opening for David Dondero Aug. 29th at Loosey’s, in downtown Gainesville.
However, if you really wanted to help these guys out, you could also donate school supplies for the upcoming school year to Mrs. Martin’s 6th, 7th and 8th grades at Lake Butler Middle School. Don’t have the address? It’s 150 Southwest 6th St. Lake Butler, FL. 32054. That’d be super cool.