Michael Van & The Movers’ recently released sophomore album A Little More Country does not exhibit the sound that one would expect from a group just a few miles out of Berkeley, California. Thanks in large part to Michael Van, having been raised in the deep South, the group has a more authentic sound to their take on country music than does much of what is being passed off as such on country music radio.
Taking the path that is increasingly more travelled of late, A Little More Country is a departure from the still prevalent formula of combining bubblegum-pop inspired hooks with dashing good looks. In the wake of the success of artists systematically exposing country music’s current rap-video like aesthetic, A Little More Country sets out to get back to the roots of the genre. With the recent surge of artists prizing solid and relatable songwriting over flashy analytic-based pop-structuring like Sturgill Simpson, Shooter Jennings, or Hank III — Michael Van & The Movers have crafted a new LP on the correct side of a genre going through a personality conflict.
Showing influences early in the guitar and vocal delivery, A Little More Country’s opening titular track has several Black Crowes tinges sprinkled into its dusty traditional backdrop. Being that the band’s listed home of Point Richmond, California is less than an hour out of The Black Crowes adopted home of San Francisco, it’s not shocking to hear elements similar to those found in a song like “Josephine”; from the Warpaint album.
On “Getting Drunk On A Monday”, the album’s third track Michael Van & The Movers go deep into the annals of country music in not only theme but in their convincingly Waylon Jennings-esq approach and vocal delivery.
Though never placed above the band’s name on the marquee like Van’s name is, another of the voices to have never shied away from the next whiskey round on A Little More Country is that of Peter Ahonen. Contributing on electric guitar as well as being the less Jennings sounding whiskey coated voice in the band, Ahonen provides a different kind of grit and texture with his straight ahead yet emotionally fetching songwriting skills. On “Love Me Till Thursday” and “Sounds Like Rain”, Ahonen’s writing and delivery offer a delightful contrast to an already well-balanced country album.
Though the band strays from their collective wheelhouse on “Juanita”, the songwriter’s culprit Alan Bond is also it’s saviour with some of the most precise mandolin playing one will hear.
“Gimme Back My Guitar” returns A Little More Country to the album’s foundation and is sure to be a fan favourite for Michael Van & The Movers target demographic.
A Little More Country does very well to achieve its goal of getting back to doing the basics well, and focussing on songwriting. From the disorderly Levon Helm style vocal delivery on the sure to be fan singalong track “Center Of The Universe”, to the well constructed and soothing intro to “River Road”, Michael Van & The Movers feel like a genuine group of tested musicians currently in the right project.
“Look Out Miss Ohio” caps off the impressive flow of the well crafted 13 new track LP nicely. Fitting that an album that starts with a glint of The Black Crowes in it, should end with the essence of the disbanded staple of Southern rock.
From talent to arrangement the group should be proud of A Little More Country, an LP that should have traditional country music fans pining for a little more Michael Van & The Movers.
Update: Michael Van has shared with Vancouver Weekly the news that he and The Movers are ‘starting a new album to follow up’ A Little More Country .