Published May 01, 2015"Coulee" is as rootsy and sparse as the winter forest that its lyrics depict, making it a standout track on Headlights, the latest release from Vancouver up-and-coming folk rockers the River and the Road. Aside from the picturesque, evocative lyrics about snow that "Settles in for the night," "Coulee" also features the band's impressive affinity for idiosyncratic lines. Case in point: a protagonist that describes his smiling sweetheart as having "showed me some teeth."
Such uniquely clever turns of phrase abound on the LP. Melancholy midway track "The Beast" has fantastic couplets like, "Tell him I'm only human / I'm not runnin', I just like to keep movin'." Earlier cut "I'm Broke" is also full of quirky quotables like, "You can't hold a pen / With money in your hand," which contrast with the straightforward, sing-along-worthy chorus. It's all underpinned by organ riffs rollicking enough to make Levon Helm grin and take a load off.
Unfortunately, not all of Headlights' tunes feature such sterling songwriting. Opening track "Mistakes" sports driving organ notes, guitar riffs and an overall harder rock tone from the rest of the album, and while that makes for an energetic beginning, the band allow the song to meander into 3 Doors Down territory (the earnestly gruff singing on the chorus doesn't help). "Strange Disease" has an equally promising beginning, this time steeped in bluegrass, but it slowly sours into the generic, one-note guitar work and singing that can be found anywhere on your AM dial.
Aside from these two mediocre tracks, though, Headlights is misstep free. In fact, its strongest moments — like the shrilly sung, Delta Blues-style "Child With a Gun" — are as sturdy as the aged influences that the band draw from. (MapleMusic)