The brainchild of singer-songwriter Jakob Dylan, Exit Wounds is The Wallflowers‘ seventh studio album. After a decade-long hiatus, Dylan turned to ace producer Butch Walker to helm the reincarnation of the band. The resulting record is a rootsy, Americana sound with a deep emphasis on songwriting and melody. Dylan has never featured the same players on consecutive records, and the same pattern holds true for Exit Wounds. The songs are simmering and lush, and Dylan’s warm vocals sit comfortably above the mix.
The opening track, “Maybe Your Heart’s Not In It No More,” comes out of the gate with a bluesy sway and Dylan sharing vocal harmonies in the chorus with fellow singer-songwriter Shelby Lynne. The five-minute track is a slow-burn beauty. Dylan seemingly questions his own motivations over a tumultuous past four years. The layering of acoustic guitars, piano and slide guitar deftly carries the song to another level, with just the slightest hint of Dylan’s father shining through in his vocals.
“Roots and Wings” taps into a, well, rootsy Springsteen-esque sound. “I showed you how to swing/ I showed you how to strut/ That’s my mojo you’re using/ That’s my wine getting you drunk,” Dylan sings on the upbeat track, which concludes with a fuzzed-out bluesy guitar solo. The momentum keeps up for “I Hear the Ocean (When I Want to Hear Trains).” Dylan harmonizes with producer Walker for the bouncy track. Walker has a keen ability to bring out fresh sounds from the artists he works with, and this record is no exception.
The New Jersey vibe dials even higher on “The Dive Bar In My Heart.” A little nod to Springsteen and Bob Dylan, the upbeat rocker brings an energy and emotional intensity without the guitar riffs on the forefront. “Now the whole world’s awake/ And I overslept/ In the dive bar in my heart,” Dylan sings on the introspective jam. Lynne returns and things slow down for the delicate and beautiful “Darlin’ Hold On.” The space left by the light and percussive backbeat is filled with piano and guitar licks.
Things turn decidedly in the other direction on “Move The River,” featuring an upbeat folky groove with some slight Spanish influences at the outset, building into a no-nonsense rocker. “You see the torches on a battered boat/ Of a ghost ship without any guide/ There’s no way around it,” Dylan sings in his signature lower register. The heartfelt down-home ballad “I’ll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up)” crescendos with an exquisite harmonized chorus of the title lyric.
The bluesy intricacy of “Wrong End of the Spear” brings a similar intimate energy, fusing strong lyricism with an intimate delivery over a lush and full instrumentation. The pace increases for the indie rock stomp of “Who’s That Man Walkin’ Round My Garden.” The track is a firecracker, brimming with a Stones-esque energy. Dylan and Walker share the shouted chorus vocals. Clocking in at just under 3 minutes, it’s a fun romp and an exciting detour.
The record closes with mid-tempo “The Daylight Between Us,” a fitting introspective end that comes with a folky flare and bluesy rock energy. The track itself closes with an emotive guitar solo.
Exit Wounds is a strong reentry into the musical atmosphere for Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers. While whatever comes next for the band will surely tap into new sounds, this record stands on its own and should provide plenty of thrills.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.