White Owl Red recently dropped Existential Frontiers, a 14-track collection of delicious alt-country rock/Americana music.
The musical project of singer-songwriter Josef McManus, White Owl Red includes drums by Kyle Caprista, guitars by Gawain Mathews, and backing vocals by Leah Tysee.
Based in San Francisco, Existential Frontiers is the third album from White Owl Red. The first album, Americana Ash, was released in 2014, debuting on the Americana Music Association’s Charts (AMA), where it stayed for fourteen weeks. The second album, Naked and Falling, garnered international praise and beau coup airplay during 2017 and 2018, hitting the Top 65 on the AMA’s chart, the Top 10 of FAR’s chart, and the Top 20 of Root 64’s airplay chart. Alternate Root Magazine placed Naked and Falling in the top 100 albums of 2017.
The album opens with the title track, an alt-rock tune seasoned with tasty Americana flavors on a shuffling groove topped by twangy guitars. McManus’ voice, rich and deliciously drawling, infuses the tune with a Dylan-esque frisson.
Highlights on the album include “Everything But Crying,” traveling on So-Cal country rock flavors reminiscent of Poco, only with more vocal oomph, as McManus struts his scrumptiously cool, offhand tones. “Lover Her Still” is a beautiful love song, rife with a subdued, almost tender guitar backed by the distant accenting wail of freight-train-like timbres.
“More More More” rides swampy blues colors and dark textures, as McManus imbues his voice with ominous flavors. There’s a wicked sensual feel to this tune, one that’s more admonitory than erotic. “Set Free” is one of those oozing, tasty, tumescent tunes vaguely reminiscent of Springsteen’s “Fire,” more because of the focused feel of the harmonics than anything else.
“Union Fight Song” thrums with dirty, growling guitars delivering low-slung hues and washes of sonic pressure. McManus’ luscious drawling, almost slurring voice really holds this song down. “Hand Me Down Girl” is my favorite track on the album because of its gentle harmonic flow and McManus’ inimitable and alluring half-twangy half-dreamy tones.
Existential Frontiers is splendid, devoid of even one subpar track. Contagious melodies pervade the album, while the highlight is always Josef McManus’ unique voice.