Album Review ~ Roadcase Royale ~ First Things First

Life is sometimes like a videogame and every now and then you have to hit the reset button. Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart decided to take some time to explore other musical avenues. Nancy ended up starting a new band with Liv Warfield, a former member of Prince’s New Power Generation. Liv opened two dates for Heart at the Hollywood Bowl and that’s where the initial connection was made between these two artists. Once they started working on material together, the creative spark was felt instantly and they knew they were onto something rather special.

The band includes Liv’s guitarist Ryan Waters plus Heart veterans Dan Rothchild (bass), Ben Smith (drums) and Chris Joyner (keys). It’s a collision of rock and soul that’s been fused together to create something very special now known as Roadcase Royale. There are high hopes for the band and would we expect anything less of a band comprised of such amazing talent? Well, I think that an actor or actress is only as good as their script and a band is only as good as their songs. On September 22, Roadcase Royale will unleash their debut album First Things First onto the world. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of the album and here are a few of my honest thoughts on the tracks.

Our first taste of Roadcase Royale happened a few months ago with the release of “Get Loud.” I’ve always believed that a message can be delivered differently by different messengers. Anyone can read “Twas the Night before Christmas” on Christmas Eve, but we all have memories of someone who could deliver it like no other. I think Liv’s vocals add a depth to these lyrics that is far different from many singers. I think that happens more than once throughout this album. “Not Giving Up” switches lanes throughout the song, changing its tempo back and forth. It starts off with a funky guitar riff then settles into this slow groove that quickly picks up and rocks on the chorus before settling into that slow groove again. Midway through, it just flat out rocks!

“Hold Onto My Hand” has the band covering a song from Colin Hay (remember Men at Work?) entitled “Hold Onto My Hand.” Hay is an underappreciated lyricist and this is a great example of that. The band puts its spin on Hay’s original version, which was an acoustic piece. It starts out with a driving drum beat and guitar that slowly builds in its intensity. The musical arrangement is far from acoustic and we’re ok with that. The band has managed to put its own stamp on the song without taking anything away from its lyrical impact.

An interested spin on the Heart classic “Even It Up” is included which is pretty damn funky. The percussion on this song really adds a whole new layer to it that I absolutely love! Another new version of a Heart classic is included with “These Dreams” and it really doesn’t stray too far from the original. The one song that I couldn’t wait to hear was “The Dragon” which is finally seeing the light of day of many years of hearing about this song. Its composition started in the 90s and was meant for Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, but was never completed until recently. Nancy told us in our recent interview with her that this song was never meant to be a Heart song. Was it worth the wait? I would have to say so because it’s a damn powerful song and it’s really needed. We go to church on the last track “Never Say Die” and it’s a thing of beauty. The musical song structure may be stripped down to the basics, but Liv delivers a strong, soulful performance that is a thing of beauty.

Overall, this album is such a treat and a great first outing for a band that we will be hearing a lot more from. It allows Warfield’s soulful, R&B roots to soar to a whole new level as she spreads her wings and ventures into the field of rock and roll. She’s an amazing vocalist whose voice takes us back to some of the greats. The album also allows Nancy to peel back a layer and show us her funky side which is a fun side to hear her explore. Two worlds have collided to create something quite beautiful and, as a fan of all types of music, that excites me to no end.

First Things First, the debut album from Roadcase Royale, will be released on September 22 and you can order it HERE.

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