No doubt, much will be made of the fact that heartland indie rockers (from Kansas and Missouri) started making music in the 80s, when they toured with The Replacements and The Call – and are only now – three and a half decades later – delivering on their early promise with their dynamic, infectious, truly cathartic and therapeutic full length album Heal.
Also of fascinating, if head scratching, note is that the album’s lead single, the rollicking harmonic rocker “God Loves a Hell of a Man,” was originally released in 1986. The great news is that, in the hands of frontman/chief songwriter Bryan Plumlee, guitarist Eric Harris, bassist Brian Jones and drummer Steve Ritter, it’s a transcendent, lighthearted tune that need not be grounded in any stylistic place and time.
There are a lot of tempo and tone shifts throughout this eclectic collection, from the slow simmering bluesy ballads “Quitting Now Would Be Treason” and “Music Is Love” to the stark, mostly acoustic, highly Beatlesque “A Signal Hovering Over America” and fiery rocker “Baby Boom Boom.” It’s kind of like the group has put off this release so long they wanted to throw in every genre they loved just in case the opportunity to record never came again. Yet all that “all over the mapness” works to the good.
Most everything is uniquely grounded in the overriding central theme of healing and hopeful, forward-thinking optimism. When we think of recordings driven by the concept of healing, we often think of new age – so it’s inspiring to find rockers so committed to working through their issues and offering positive energy with the three songs here directly related to physical, emotional and spiritual recovery.
The opening track “Heal Me” and the later “Heal You” are the exact same song, rendered first as a graceful, rootsy acoustic gem and then as a feisty, vocal harmony driven rock jam. The set closes with the cheery, optimistic “Healed,” a coda celebrating the fact that “now that you’re better . . .ain’t gonna be like it was before.” The whole band joins in on vocals behind Plumlee, like a gospel choir affirming “Amens” like there’s nothing but blue skies ahead. With that in mind, let’s pray that it doesn’t take A Picture Made another 35 years to bless us with another rich, wonderful recording like this one.