Love and Curses
By Shawn DonohueAugust 24, 2009
Reigning Sound is the brain child of prolific talent Greg Cartwright. While the group has shifted over the years, Love and Curses proves once again that Cartwright and crew are the most criminally-underrated songwriter and rockers rolling today. The Memphis-garage-pop-Detroit-60’s-punk style, which Cartwright has earned his doctorate in, pumps out yet again but the volume is noticeably-muted since the masterpiece Too Much Guitar, making Love and Curses more in line with Reigning Sound’s recent effort backing Mary Weiss of The Shangri-La’s on Dangerous Game (Produced and partially written by Cartwright).
What makes Cartwright standout is that he never ventures away from the boy/girl broken heart trials and tribulations of the 50’s/60’s sock hop-pop, and yet he remains unique. An example can be found on the stand-out track “Debris” with its opening kicker: “The only time you think of me now/is when you’re in-between and all alone/With your heart on your shelf you must be pleased with yourself/Slowly turning into stone.” The lone variation on the love/loss theme arrives with the eastern-tinged, pitying album closer “Bankers and Liars,” which is the only tune that doesn’t sound straight out of 1963. Other gems are “The Bells” with its swells, strings and decisions, the head bopping swing of “Broken Things” and the hard driving “If I Can’t Come Back.”
While Cartwright is the conductor of this train, on Love and Curses Dave Amels organ playing is the engine. The keys rise and fall, acting as the centerpiece to these tracks, creating a laid back aura (“Polly Ann”) or pumping things up when a punch in the throat is needed (“Stick Up For Me”). Cartwright’s delivery is pure and engaging; his undying adulation of soul-singers-past is obvious, and while his rasp will never approach Sam Cooke smooth, his emotions pour fourth conveying desperation, hurt, and longing – what more can you ask for?
With the longest song being only 3 minutes 12 seconds long, this album flies by jangling and shimmying in its briefness; a throwback in every sense. While I will always be more partial to the urgent/rawer Reigning Sound this more relaxed release continues to add to the bands excellent resume, and is a great place for new listeners to hop on board.