Review: The Artisanals – Zia (2021)


The Artisanals are a rock band from Charleston, South Carolina who comprise Johnny Delaware (vocals, guitar), Clay Houle (guitar), Eric Mixon (bass) and Ian Klin (keyboards). The band released their self-titled debut album in 2018 and have their new release `Zia` out this month.

The album opens with `Fear To Fail` which is a fairly fast paced number that encourages us all to overcome the anxiety that holds us back from attempting things because we fear that they`ll be unsuccessful. It`s led by an intricately played guitar where you can hear the frets as they vibrate.   

An organ and strummed guitar lead us into `Heading Somewhere` which is a more relaxed dreamy affair with echoey guitar riffs, a shook tambourine, and a beating drum at its heart.

`Always Taken Care Of` has a thumping repetitive rhythmic drumbeat at its core with what sounded like a steel guitar floating through. The vocals seem much more powerful and dynamic on this composition which has a brief guitar solo around the mid-way point. We have in `Way Up` a track that according to the band “was inspired by the book ‘Women Who Run With Wolves” displaying our human integrity and purpose to metaphorically resurrect ourselves to further our lives. Yes, what goes up must come down, but in terms of spirituality and our emotional garbage, Johnny Delaware’s last line ‘I’m going way up, and this time I’m never going down’ symbolizes breaking old patterns and starting over, rediscovering the inside truths of ourselves and why we came to be born in the first place; a revelation brought on by the song’s desert landscape in New Mexico” I felt it had that edge and intensity of a storm brewing with shook tambourine, brushed cymbals and intricately picked guitar. There`s a sort of defiance in the vocal delivery.

`Driftwood` is an intense slow burn that blossoms with vocals that veer from a deep to a higher intonation at times throughout. It has some delicious guitar riffs and has quieter periods which feel delightfully unsettling during its seven minute lifespan. Again, we enjoy some higher pitched vocals on the delicate `Plant The Seed`. A track that is nigh on soulful at times with some brass snatches and enchanting vocal harmonies.   

`The Road` is stripped back with guitar and vocals and becomes more anthemic as harmonies and guitar chords are added to the mix. We have a rockier number with `Violet Light` which had that sort of country rock, Byrds meets Tom Petty vibe. A song that I played a number of times on repeat.

The album closes out with `She’s Looking For An Answer` which was another country tinged slice of Americana that enjoyed some steel guitar tinges and a shuffling drum beat.

The Artisanals`s `Zia` was an interesting listen. A blend of rock, country, and Americana.

Zia is a name of Arabic origin meaning “light” and after all the darkness of the last eighteen months this release certainly shines a brightness into our lives.

Rating 8.5/10

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