Sons of Sylvia

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Revelation Review

by Andrew Leahey

Given their history, it’s hard to blame Sons of Sylvia for filling their first album with the sort of mainstream country-pop that has more in common with Jon Bon Jovi than Johnny Cash. Since forming the Clark Family Experience in the late ‘90s, the brothers have been dropped by two labels, plunged into bankruptcy, and plagued with more false starts than a middle-school swim meet. Their misfortune came to a halt in 2007, when the group won The Next Great American Band (the full-band version of American Idol) under the name the Clark Brothers. Now signed to 19 Recordings -- the same label that manages American Idol’s alumni -- the guys are more than aware of the power of television, and they’ve streamlined their album accordingly.

Revelation is coated with prime-time gloss, featuring a blend of pop melodies and anthemic rock arrangements whose only link to country music is the presence of Dobro and mandolin. “50 Ways” flirts with digital samples and hard rock guitars, while “Song of Solomon” is a Christian ballad disguised as a love song. The entire track list is meant to appeal to everybody, including those who typically avoid country music, and any extremes are avoided in favor of bombastic, middle-of-the-road material that samples from several genres but doesn’t commit to any of them. The result is a “country” album for the American Idol crowd, one that’s almost fastidiously marketable but lacks the twang, the storytelling, and other hallmarks of the traditional Nashville sound. Granted, the guys have been trying to get a good thing going for the better part of a decade, so kudos to them for stumbling upon a hit formula.

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