Review: Four Way Stop – LANDMARK LIVE SESSIONS (2020)

  • fws-landmark-live-banner

After a stellar first appearance on the Landmark Live concert series, Mississippi band Four Way Stop returned to the platform with a mission: record and release a live EP.

Culled from some four hours of live-tracked music, the Landmark Live Sessions features renditions of some of the band’s most popular tunes.

From Zeppelin and Crowes covers to signature originals, this debut release features the best of the group’s “classically soaked” brand of rock.

1. “Wicked Woman”

The band kicks off the record with “Wicked Woman,” an original penned by singers/guitarists Ryan Purser and Kyle Graves. The song is a swaggering rocker about a femme fatale and reminiscent of the work of another current throw-back band, Greta Van Fleet. Unlike GVF, however, “Wicked Woman” sounds less like a Zeppelin rip-off and more like a Zeppelin homage with a signature stamp—much like Four Way Stop as a whole.

2. “Whole Lotta Love”

The group keeps the energy high with a reverent version of Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” There isn’t necessarily anything that sets this version apart from the original, but, from Purser’s Plant-esque wailing to drummer Wyatt Brady’s hammering licks, FWS’s execution is masterful.

3. “Caliente/Blueberry Jam”

Next, the band switches gears a bit with an original instrumental jam, probably the best track on the EP. The “Caliente” portion, written by bassist/keyboardist Joe Cranfield, is a keys-based romp with a Latin groove. Graves overlays smooth jazz-tinned licks until the song begins transitioning to Graves’s own “Blueberry” section. The transition plays like the jazzier side of the Allmans, perfectly segueing into the slow, blues-rock closing segment, which sees Graves slaying on axe.

The song is a masterpiece of musicianship, but with one curious element: Cranfield’s keys drop out on the transition. It’s unclear what the creative intent was there, but, for me, it’s a notable distraction. Regardless, it’s a minor flaw in an otherwise spectacular track.

4. “Morning Song”

Penned and sung by Graves, “Morning Song” is another “Van Fleet-ian” tune, but Graves’s lower, more country-rock voice lends enough differentiation to the track to separate it from similar ilk. 

Aside from a few pitch problems on the vocals, the track is another solid offering and sports the best lyrics on the record:

Hey, darling, wanna be my lover? 
How can I be another?  
Come show me some mercy. 
Take me where I can dance in the streets.
Forget reserved seats. 
Let’s write a new story. 
 

It’s a standard flirty theme, but the “streets/seats” bit is a creative metaphor which, to my knowledge, is wholly unique to this song.

5. “Everlong”

A Foo Fighters cover, “Everlong” is distinguished by Purser’s “Southern grunge” vocalizing and Brady’s channeling of his inner-Dave Grohl on kit.

6. “Hard to Handle”

Technically an Otis Redding song, Four Way Stop’s version is clearly based on The Black Crowes’ hit cover, with vocalist Graves doing his best Chris Robinson. It’s a great sound for Graves, and the song’s sassy, country/blues/rock vibe serves as the perfect closer to the project.

As a whole, there’s only one criticism I’d lob at the record, and it’s probably just me. I watched the performances when they were originally streamed and, from the audience perspective, Purser is on the left, Graves right. On the EP mix, the two band members’ guitars are directionally inverted, with Purser’s on the right and Graves left. Meaning, if this mixed audio were synced over the original performance video, the audience would be hearing the instruments coming from opposite directions from their physical location. 

Yeah, no such video exists that I know of, and even if it did, most people wouldn’t notice or care. It’s simply unclear why the record was mixed from a stage perspective, and, for me, the decision is a bit bothersome.

I know. I wax critical over minutia.

Bottom line:

With a perfect tracklist, exemplary musicianship, and a fitting raw sound, Landmark Live Sessions marks a strong debut for a rising, retro rock band.

Rating: 9/10


 

Four Way Stop
is
Ryan Purser – Vocals/Rhythm Guitar
Kyle Graves – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Joe Cranfield – Bass/Keys
Wyatt Brady – Drums
 
Recorded by Topher Brown at Landmark Live
Mixed by Brennan White at The Fairview Sound
 
Cover art by Autumn Hendrix
From original photography by Lizzy Tate
 

*Note: Unfortunately, Disqus comments have stopped loading on new blog posts, and I have yet to resolve the issue. If you’d like to reach out for any reason, please feel free to drop me a note via the Contact Form!