Bart Davenport

Palaces

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AllMusic Review by

Coming off of his stint with the electronic dance-pop band Honeycut, you might have figured Bart Davenport to weave some electronics into his soft-rocking sound on his fourth album Palaces. You'd be wrong though. The same basic template of acoustic guitars and restrained instrumentation makes up the bulk of his sound. The mellow influence of '70s groups like Bread and America still casts a long shadow and he still sings the same kind of intimate lyrics with the same heartbreaking tenderness. What Davenport adds this time is a soul influence to go with the classic rock and soft rock. Not the kind of Ronson-retro sound that threatened to take over the late 2000s, instead he looks to the lush '70s soul of groups like the Stylistics with their layered harmonies, gentle horns, and tinkling glockenspiels. Check the beginning of the entrancing "A Young One" if you doubt it. It truly comes off as mash-up of Bread and the Stylistics, and ends up sounding way better than you might expect. Amazing, even. The rest of the album doesn't quite reach this level of greatness but there are plenty of solid songs, and unlike his last album, he takes great care with the arrangements at all times. Whether it's the fat Hammond organ that makes several appearances (most notably on the Deep Purple-esque rocker "Born to Suffer"), the drifting background vocals of Willow Willow on "Lil' Bunny," or the pedal steel that adds some country melancholy to the soul ballad "Freeway Flowers," Davenport and his band always sound great and often cheerfully weird. It's not as strong an album as Game Preserve, but it's a welcome mini-comeback for Davenport and a recommended listen for folks who like their classic sounds with a real live heart and soul.

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