First Flight by WC Beck benefits from a production quality that is beyond physical in nature, but for as much as there is to be said about the bells and whistles that the master mix features, the compositions themselves deserve the lion’s share of the praise here. Beck’s conservative style of attack in “The Long Way Home,” “Grey” and “Cathy Jo” finds an interesting contrast alongside the riveting cathartic explosions that make up “Powder Blue,” “Steel Bird” and “Colosseum,” and as different as the two styles of play are, they flow incredibly well together in this tracklist. First Flight is admittedly on the eccentric side of the country spectrum, but its bucolic centerpiece – Beck’s ever-self-aware, introspective lyricism – tethers it to a vintage Nashville model that many of us had thought dead and gone forever. The relationship between Beck and the instrumentation that adorns his verses is as much the star of this show as his poetic lashings are, which in itself gives First Flight a duality that has been all too rare among the indie LPs I’ve listened to this spring.
The glimmer of an acoustic guitar’s soft melody awakens a treasure chest of tonality in “Unknown Bust” and the more reticent “Grey.” Grinding grooves come slipping through the air around us as “Powder Blue” comes into focus, but they’re only the first glimpse at the eruption of evocative harmonies that this countrified anthem has in store for us. “Among the Waves” yearns with an unspoken pain amidst a swaggering backbeat, while a more tempered rhythm drives us into the horizon in the sexy southern-style ballad “(Holding on) To a Coast.” We’re beholden to whatever bruising poeticism W.C. Beck can throttle in our direction in “Cathy Jo,” afforded front-row seats for his most intimate acoustic expression-session to date in “A Place to Land,” and taken for a sky-high ride on the whim of a piano’s potent thrust in “Steel Bird.” “Colosseum” brings a little bit of funk to the table that carves out a nice place for “The Long Way Home” to tug at our heartstrings in its half-whispered central serenade, and in both of these tracks, as well as the other eight that join them in Beck’s First Flight, we find a songwriter who has truly found his place in the hierarchy of modern underground icons.
If you’re looking for a record that will engage all of your senses at once, W.C. Beck’s First Flight is an album that you need to pick up this June. Beck’s music embodies a thrilling new approach to making Americana that is, at times, as irreverent as it is endearing, and try as his closest rivals might, they’re going to have a hard time topping what he’s produced for us in this stunner of a third LP. In a year that has submitted to us far more misses than it has hits, this is a captivating work of genuine passion that doesn’t require any sort of prologue to understand. If you’re the type to go for smart roots music with a dash of experimental attitude this one is for you.