Nancy Wilson's Royale Venture
Bruce Von Stiers
Long before Joan Jett and Lita Ford were noted women rock guitarists, there was Nancy Wilson of the band Heart. From the killer guitar she played on City's Burning and Crazy On You to her beautifully tender vocals on Two, Nancy has been has been a force in rock music.
A couple of years ago Heart was looking for an opening act for a two shows at the Hollywood Bowl. They chose vocalist Liv Warfield and her musical director and guitarist Ryan Waters to join them for those show dates. From those musical couplings came the basis for a new venture for Nancy Wilson. This new venture is a band that calls themselves Roadcase Royale. Now the band has recorded their first album.
The album from Roadcase Royale is titled First Things First. It is being released on the Loud & Proud Records label, whose stable of artists include Blues Traveler and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
The album was produced by the band and Dan Rothchild. He produced and played on Heart's latest release, Beautiful Broken. First Things First was recorded at J.J. Blair's Fox Force Five Recorders studio. It has ten songs and a play time of forty minutes.
The members of Roadcase Royale are Nancy Wilson, Liv Warfield, Ryan Waters, Chris Joyner, Dan Rothchild and Ben Smith. Chris plays the keys and Ben is on drums. They both have been playing and recording with Heart for quite a while. I mentioned Dan earlier. He also plays bass on the album besides producing it. Ryan is the lead guitarist for the band. Besides previously working with Liv, Ryan played and recorded with Sade. Liv is a successful R & B artist who has been a member of Prince's New Power Generation. She provides the lead vocals on most of the songs on the album. Nancy plays guitar on the album and provide lead vocals on a couple of the songs.
The styling of the album is a mixture of R & B and rock with a sliver of funk thrown in. That might seem a strange collection of musical attributes, but the band makes it work very well. There are original songs on the album as well as a few covers.
Get Loud is the first song on the album. It has a funk and rock tone. There is a short, mellower spot in the middle, but overall it has a fairly fast pace. The guitar is really cool. The song is about girls who are marginalized and how they will someday rise up and be heard. Sky Nicholas provided additional vocals for Get Loud. She has composed music for film and television and been an actor in both.
Not Giving Up is a rocking protest song. It's telling the world that they will stand up to the tyranny and repression that seems to be coming back around. It references building a wall and that they're not giving up. Whether or not the song was written for the current political climate in the U.S., it certainly fits what's happening.
Hold Onto My Hand is my favorite song on the album. It is a solid rock ballad with fantastic vocals. The song is about reaching out to someone when their heart is hurting or they are in need. The band does a fantastic job with this Colin Hay song.
Even It Up is one of my favorite Heart songs. The band does a fair job with their rendition. It doesn't have the hard punch of the original but has an almost funky blues touch with tough piano.
Cover Each Other is a mix of rock and R&B. It is about a couple being there for each other.
The Dragon is a slow and enduring ballad. Reading the notes about the song I learned that Nancy wrote it observing the destructiveness of the life of Alice In Chains front man Layne Staley.
Insaniac has some killer guitar and drums. Liv cranks out some tough vocals as well in this scorching rock and funk anthem. The song has some gentler bits but overall rocks out.
Another Heart song, These Dreams, is done by the band. Nancy gives a beautiful and gentle touch to the song.
There is one song on the album that was recorded live. It is a smile effecting R & B tune with a sliver of rock called Mind Your Business.
The song that concludes the album is Never Say Die. It is a cool bluesy rock piece.
The pairing of Nancy Wilson and Liv Warfield might seem a bit different. Mixing R & B and rock doesn't always work well. But the two of them have a cohesiveness that translates into some fantastic music. Adding key musicians to this pairing takes Roadcase Royale beyond just a couple of top artists getting together to perform. This is a band that is well worth listening to.
Roadcase Royale is currently opening for selected Bob Seger 2017 tour dates.
First Things First is available now at most major music retailers.
To learn more about Roadcase Royale, visit the band's official web site at www.roadcaseroyale.com . They also have a Facebook band page at https://www.facebook.com/roadcaseroyale/?ref=br_rs
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© 2017 Bruce E Von Stiers