Red Velvet Car, the first studio album from Heart in six years, finds Ann and Nancy Wilson taking an organic approach, eschewing their arena-ready rock for more intimate acoustic songs. The arrangements here include an assortment of string instruments: guitar, mandolin, dobro, lap-steel, banjo, fiddle, viola, cello and autoharp — all played by Nancy and Grammy-nominated Red Velvet Car producer Ben Mink. A sparse rhythm section also contributes, but it's never been clearer that Heart officially consists of no one but Ann and Nancy.
Most of these 10 songs were co-penned by the Wilson sisters, with outside assistance — although Ann was not involved in the writing of the Nancy-sung "Hey You" (which proves Heart can still harmonize beautifully) and the dreamy "Sunflower." The heaviest track is the ode to burning bridges "WTF," while some Southern-charmed blues twang leaves its mark on "Safronia's Mark" and the reflective farewell "Sand" updates a tune Ann and Nancy originally recorded with their Nineties acoustic project, the Lovemongers. Ann still sounds as lethal as ever, if also a bit raw, and Nancy's dusty vocals provide sonic balance.
Credit Heart for not revisiting past glories by recording acoustic renditions of, say, "Barracuda" or "Magic Man." But Red Velvet Car lasts only 37 minutes, and there is nothing here to rival earlier acoustic work such as "Dreamboat Annie," "Dog & Butterfly" or even "These Dreams." But as Nancy Wilson claims in press materials accompanying the new disc, "This album feels so right for the times." Indeed, it does. This is the kind of music — music seemingly without commercial aspirations — that Ann and Nancy Wilson should be making today. They may be getting older, but so are the rest of us. And these are songs to listen to while that natural evolution takes place.
1) There You Go
3) Red Velvet Car
4) Queen City
5) Hey You
7) Safronia's Mark
8) Death Valley