Berkeley To Bakersfield

Cracker

429 Records, 2014

http://www.crackersoul.com

REVIEW BY: Pete Crigler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/22/2014

On their first record in five years, Cracker has come back with a diverse double album, partially recorded with their original lineup from the first record. One of the classic modern rock bands of the ‘90s, the band is still going strong and has reemerged with their best album in years.

The first disc, Berkeley, is the rocking half, something the band hasn’t done in quite a while. Songs like “March Of The Billionaires” and the main single, the amazing “Waited My Whole Life” will remind listeners of the Cracker that brought us classics like “Teen Angst” and “Low.” By bringing back original bassist and backing singer Davey Faragher and drummer Michael Urbano, the band feels more relaxed and sure of themselves.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Beautiful” is the type of song that should work but ultimately doesn’t grab the listener like “Waited My Whole Life.” There’s an overtly political tone to several tracks that the band chooses to focus on and it’s interesting to hear. “El Cerrito” is a bit funkier than other Cracker songs and it’s nice to hear a different side to the band.

Rockers like “You Got Yourself Into This” show the band’s biggest strengths: Lowery’s unique vocals and Johnny Hickman’s excellent guitar playing. Definitely an album highlight.

Right from the get go on “California Country Boy,” disc two takes on a completely different feel. It sounds like a great ‘60s country song blasting out of an AM radio and finds the band digging into their influences. “Almond Grove” is a great, laidback track that stands out from the rest for its vibe.

The music on disc two is very mellow and downbeat; the overall twanginess matching a lot of the lyrics and the music has always been one of Cracker’s strongest aspects. The downbeat feel of “Tonight I Cross the Border” makes it feel like one of those great old country songs of yore that we’ve all grown up on. Forget Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line, music like this is REAL country.

“I’m Sorry Baby” is the main standout on disc two; it’s just a classic Cracker ballad amped up to 11 and destined to be one of those album tracks diehard fans will always crank. “The San Bernadino Boy” is a great showcase for Johnny Hickman’s voice and guitar work. Hell, the song sounds like a hootenanny recorded in a barn somewhere.

The album ends with some unique ballads but ultimately, disc one is the better of the two, just because the songs are harder with more funk to them. Disc two has some great songs as well, but ultimately, the Berkeley side wins. But after almost thirty years, Cracker has made some of their best material twenty-five years in – and that’s something most bands from their generation cannot say.

Rating: B

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© 2014 Pete Crigler 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 429 Records, and is used for informational purposes only.