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The Critics Corner: Albums
Revelation
Sons of Sylvia- Revelation
Brotherly trio crackles and sizzles on high-energy debut album
Name: "Sons of Sylvia"
Label: Interscope/19
Release Date: April 27, 2010
Must listen tracks: All ten tracks on the effort
Rating:  4.8 out of 5


Review written by: Alan Ho
Real die hard reality TV junkies and music fans may remember Ashley, Austin and Adam Clark from the FOX one-time reality vehicle "The Next Great American Band" in 2007 that was to become the "American Idol" for bands. As The Clark Brothers, they were a high flying, high energy trio of country-loving brothers from Nashville. After winning the show, the three were signed to Universal South (now part of Toby Keith's Show Dog).

Three years later, the brothers, now known as Sons of Sylvia, named after their mother wrote over 300 songs and decided to change up their sound, fusing in pop, alternative, rock and blues with their country music base in addition to toning down the high flying acrobatics they were known on the show but keeping the high energy they brought to the table. The result? Bring on the "Revelation". The genre-bending and defying 10 track effort is the end result of those three years in the span between now and their winning of "Next Great".

The album begins on a very high note with "John Wayne". The song, a partial homage to the Western film legend starts on a very mysterious note, punctuated by Adam's mandolin and slowly builds up to a crescendo of virtually awesome sound, again punctuated by great solos from all three brothers on the mandolin, guitar and the fiddle.

The next track is the well-received and much talked about "Love Left to Love". The radio-friendly track showcases the fusion of sound the brothers have crafted and the prolific songwriting ability of Ashley Clark. It is interesting to note that the song is also co-written by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, a cousin of the brothers and wouldn't be shocked that Ryan produced the track as you can hear elements often used by his band, One Republic in the track.

One of the best tracks in the album is actually the title track. "Revelation" gives the listener an inside look at the lives and paths of the Clark brothers which led them to this point and it has been nothing short of exactly a revelation.

The brothers get a little Depeche Mode/Duran Duran in "50 Ways", fusing the 80s rock groove with a little techno-inspired beginning. This might be one of the most difficult songs to box in genre-wise but that fact alone probably makes it one of the most unique songs in recent memory. One needs to listen to this track to get the full power of the song.

Another must listen track is the understated but powerful country-pop/rock ballad "Songs of Solomon". The inspirational message of staying kind and seeing the beauty within is cloaked behind a beautiful string section and showcases the wonderful vocal range of Ashley Clark. The middle of the song features an electric guitar solo that is quite...electric.

The brothers continue the ballad route with "Give Me Love", which while again accenting the brothers’ mastery of genre fusion; it is tilted more towards country than the rest of the tracks outside of "John Wayne". It is another well written song and might even be a slight homage to U2 with similar soaring vocal delivery and cadence.

"Ghost Town" might be the weakest track of the 10 track effort as no one can ever accuse the brothers of writing and producing overly catchy music but in this song, they make a pretty good attempt at crafting a catchy song. The track is very techno-ish from beginning to end and the beat is pretty tap-worthy. This is definitely a showcase to the listener that there is much more to Sons of Sylvia than meets the eye...or ear. But compared to the rest of the album, it feels a little out of place. A valiant attempt, but it might have fallen short a bit.

If you are looking to see what a drive up the Pacific Coast Highway is like in California, specifically in Long Beach, then the aptly titled "Long Beach" is it. It is one of better metaphoric songs in recent memory, using a drive up the PCH and combining it with an earthquake to talk about love. This is definitely one of the must listen to tracks on the album.

"I'll Know You" is the tear-jerker track of the album with the central theme of one meeting their soul mate. The theme is cloaked in a swelling string section and a crackling electric guitar solo. This definitely returns the brothers to their pure country roots but it also has crossover potential on the lyrics alone.

The last track "The War Within" has one of the most powerful introductions a song has ever had in recent memory. The track begins with a slow rumble and march, similar to storming the beaches in World War II and what begins as a foghorn is really the crackling electric guitar of Adam Clark. The intro alone will blow any listener's mind away. The crackling and powerful intro morphs into metaphor-filled verses that is entirely open to interpretation and again one cannot pinpoint where this song belongs in any genre...just call it a wonderful rock fusion!

"Revelation" is nothing short of its own album title. Having learned from their experiences on "The Next Great American Band", Sons of Sylvia may end up fulfilling the very title of a show FOX should not have pulled the plug on so early after just one season. The brothers cannot be described as pure country as they once were as The Clark Family Experience or as The Clark Brothers. Sons of Sylvia have put together forth a sound on this album that can be only be described as just pure awesome. Outside of a decent attempt to push the genre defying envelope in "Ghost Town", they have quickly mastered the art of music fusion. In the end, "Revelation" is definitely one of the best debuts of 2010 and it will be very exciting to see where Ashley, Austin and Adam Clark will go. What is known is that Sons of Sylvia are here to stay!
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