It’s been five years since Reigning Sound released their fourth studio album, Love and Curses. Since then, frontman Greg Cartwright has had to attend more memorial services than most people should in twice that long—and one of them was for his friend and former bandmate Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. (aka “Jay Reatard”). Cartwright’s fifth long-player (and first for Merge Records) is aptly titled Shattered, and it carries the weight and emotion of a songwriter who’s approaching middle age with a seasoned soul that most millennials can’t even fake with a harmonica holder.
Reigning Sound now has a new lineup, and it translates to Shattered having more in common with Shack Three Track-era Link Wray than the hard-driving R&B garage-rock rave-ups that Cartwright rocked with Oblivions. But the album still has a tension similar to Cartwright’s previous recordings—only here it comes from a place of mediation, rather than a place of reaction. Even the more energetic organ-grinding numbers like “North Cackalacky Girl” play with a maturity that’s humbled by life—but not in that bland, Caucasian sportcoat-rock way that so many bands tend to fall into after the singer’s first kid is born.
“Falling Rain” sounds like it was recorded by guys who are smart enough to never loan out their favorite records to anyone. If Cartwright is going to be lauded and criticized for sounding like Van Morrison on this song (and he will), then consider this his Veedon Fleece, rather than his Blowin’ Your Mind.
But let’s go back to the Link Wray thing: Yes, he also recorded a song called “Fallin’ Rain” on his 1971 eponymous cult album, but this isn’t a cover of that. And who cares if Cartwright named the tune either inadvertently or as a nod to the song sung by one-lunged Wray? This is the sound of a guy who’s not only making peace with his losses, but also buying them all a round of drinks on a rainy day.