Strangers & Angels

Gene Land

Gel Music, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I would love nothing more than to sit here in my office at the Pierce Memorial Archives and declare Gene Land to be the next big thing in country music.

After all, this is a genre which is pretty much still searching for an all-out leader since Garth Brooks announced he's hanging it up - maybe. (That all depends on what day of the week it is, and if Jupiter is in the shadow of Mars.) The problem is that no one has come forth to be the next Brooks, and anyone who's come close has done so by crossing over to the pop market. Dixie Chicks? Possibly, but they're not there yet. Faith Hill? Some view her as a sell-out. Same goes for Shania Twain.nbtc__dv_250

Yes, I'd love to clear the confusion up and say that Land is Brooks's obvious successor... but I can't. Not after listening to Strangers & Angels and hearing a pretty much generic collection of cookie-cutter country with more than a touch of twang from the Plains states.

You can tell that there is a lot of indecision in regards to this project in the first song, "Lost In A Border Town" - though this might be the fault of guitarist/bassist/producer Kevin Jones. Just as Land launches into his vocal, you hear a tasty guitar lick - immediately followed by a mandolin solo. Hey, Kevin, pick one or the other, and commit to it. All this quick-change instrumentation does is confuse the listener, who (at least in this stage of the disc) is more interested in discovering who Land is. Save the fancy show-off stuff for later, and use it in moderation.

I don't want the reader to think that Strangers & Angels is without merit. Two tracks do shine, both of them in their own unique styles. "The One I Waited For" sounds like it could be a crossover hit (though it feels too short at 2:30), while "I Hate It When That Happens" has all the prerequisite country twang and is a lot of fun to listen to.

If only there were more moments that made this disc fun. The title track has its moments, to be sure, but the bulk of the tracks are watered-down country numbers that don't have the musical punch or confidence to do much. Songs like "Sail Away Together," "Standing On The Edge Of Love" and "Tell You I Love You" don't connect with the listener in the way that they could have. Part of this is that Land's voice doesn't always seem to be strong enough to carry the music, though he occasionally does surprise.

Strangers & Angels is not a bad disc by any means, but it's not the genre's savior that it seems to so desperately need at this stage in the game. All Land can do is load up his saddle into his Dodge Dakota and drive off into the sunset to try again another day.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Gel Music, and is used for informational purposes only.