Banditos

Visionland

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On their debut album, the Banditos sounded strikingly accomplished for a young band, and two years later they're even more impressive on their second long-player, 2017's Visionland. The Banditos haven't narrowed their scope one bit, and like their self-titled debut, Visionland finds them building an individual sound from elements of country, rock, gospel, jazz, and blues influences. If there's a difference here, it's that the various ingredients mesh more smoothly than they did the first time out, and the musicians have worked out an even tighter attack. This band has gained the ability to play with a technically expert touch without the final product seeming stiff or mannered; there's a high-rolling joy and passion in these ten tracks, and the songs play on classic rock and roots themes without seeming derivative or loaded with clich├ęs. The soulful blues (or bluesy soul) workout "Healin' Slow" is a great showcase for Mary Beth Richardson's full-bodied vocals, the funky country strut of "Fun All Night" grooves sure and easy, the lean but high-flying rock & roll of "Fine Fine Day" and "DDT" suggests what the Rolling Stones could have sounded like if they grew up in Muscle Shoals, and the swampy mood of "Strange Heart" is fierce, cool, and evocative at once. The Banditos also sound a bit more comfortable in the studio this time out, and the audio (recorded and mixed by Ted Young, with Israel Nash tag-teaming as producer) is rich and effective without bogging down the high spirits of the players. If the Banditos' first album was promising, Visionland proves they have the talent and strength to do this more than once, and there's as much sheer talent on display here as in any band in the roots rock underground today.

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