The debut album from Collective Soul vocalist Ed Roland’s southern-tinged, gospel/folk amalgam, the Sweet Tea Project, dives headfirst into a brave new world of countrified hootin’ and twangin’. Owing no small debt to Roland’s Georgia upbringing, the album celebrates a distinctively southern voice with a wanton sense of recording studio discovery by way of banjos, mandolins, ukuleles and steel guitar.
Tracks like “Going to Birmingham” are like an Americana smack of the Avett Brothers and Rodney Crowell—a playfully dangerous honky-tonk strummer edgy enough for Roland’s rocker-faithful base, yet still endearing to Nashville hipsters. “Oh Lord” is a faux-reggae dancer that features a “sha-la-la” chorus and Eagles-influenced California vocal harmonies as Roland soulfully and sincerely belts, “Oh lord, can you save me?”
Bona fide rockers like “Love Won’t Bring Us Down,” which could easily find a place on a Collective Soul record, sit alongside pure Willie Nelson- and Merle Haggard-inspired country nuggets like “Already Over.” Roland channels the ghost of Hank Williams in “Enough Nickels”; his pen comes alive as he sings, “If I could have a nickel for every time I think of you” with puppy-eyed yearning for a distant love.
Roland has no problem showing off his roots with elegantly inspired back porch charm and inimitable songwriting nerve—think Collective Soul’s rock candy served up with a little grits ‘n gravy.
– Mark Uricheck