The short version: ‘Long Time Comin’ ‘ is a solid return to form for Micky & the Motorcars.
- Favorite tracks: “Long Time Comin’,” “Lions Of Kandahar,” “Run Into You,” “Thank My Mother’s God,” “Road To You”
- Least favorite track: “Stranger Tonight”
- Rating: 7/10
The long version: Sometimes reading the title to an act’s upcoming album makes too much sense.
Granted, for Micky & the Motorcars, gaining something that’s a “long time coming” doesn’t necessarily mean overtaking the entire country music industry, but rather finding stability.
Formed in Idaho and now based in Texas, Micky & the Motorcars was formed by brothers Micky and Gary Braun and has faced several lineup changes over the years. Still, like Reckless Kelly, formed by older brothers Cody and Willy Braun, the band has been a staple of the Texas scene for quite some time, though they’ve certainly got a whirlwind history aside from the lineup changes: signing to Smith Music Group in 2004, breaking through beyond those Texas borders, going back to their independent roots for 2014’s Hearts From Above, and finally releasing their newest album, Long Time Comin’, through Thirty Tigers, once again featuring a change in lineup and producers, with Keith Gattis now at the wheel.
On that note, while Long Time Comin’ is a bit lacking at times, it’s nonetheless a solid return for the band, and if they’re going to make fans wait so long for an album, at least they’ll make sure it’s worth it.
For a change of pace, Micky and Gary Braun split their duties as lead vocalists and writers, and while that leads to an interesting note on lyrics and themes, it’s hard to notice the difference the two, vocally. For one, they both sound like their older brothers mixed with a hint of Gary Allan for a rougher tone, but they’re both competent singers. Considering the background surrounding this album, the title track is sang with as much conviction as possible from Micky and feels earned; meanwhile, Gary recounts the Afghan War story of the Lions of Kandahar on the aptly titled track with a great deal of respect and without overdoing it. But while their haggard tones support more seriousness material like this, when they slip into lighter territory, the results are a mixed bag. For Micky, his choppy flow on “Rodeo Girl” doesn’t help matters much as it is, but it also feels a bit one-dimensional and lacking, lyrically, coming off the more suitable “Road To You.” And when Gary tries to be a “player” on “Stranger Tonight,” the results feel more awkward and uncomfortable than likely intended.
Still, as far as the sonic palette is concerned, if there’s any longstanding criticism of Micky & the Motorcars, it’s that their mixes can feel a bit lacking. Thanks to Gattis’ contributions, however, this sounds like an album one would expect from the Texas scene – rich acoustic melodies supported by electric guitars, harmonica, piano and organ. I’d still say certain songs could afford to take more chances or include more of a bite in their arrangements, as most of these tracks coast on a typical electric guitar and organ combination, with only a few moments of differentiation in between.
But I also can’t fault how solid the instrumentation often sounds; the electric guitars have a brightness to them on tracks like “Road To You,” “Break My Heart,” and “Long Time Comin’” to support their prevailing optimism, and when the harmonica kicks in on tracks like “All Looks The Same” and “Run Into You,” it sounds fantastic. Of course, the best moment comes through on the title track, with its punchier mandolin and accordion interplay and piano to keep the tones rollicking.
There are, however, a few moments that, while not bad, do feel distracting for the project. The choppier percussion on the bridge of “Rodeo Girl” is one example, but so is that ill-fitting, curdled warped guitar on “Stranger Tonight,” which tries to go for something darker and heavier, yet doesn’t compliment the project well.
Even if songwriting duties were split between Micky and Gary, however, Long Time Comin’ sounds consistent all throughout, with the major theme of the album pointing toward the road ahead after dealing with personal struggles. Sometimes it’s more direct on the weary journeyman-led “Road To You,” and other times it’s shown through the characters themselves, like the soldier looking to move on as a civilian in “Lions Of Kandahar.” Sure, that and the title track are a bit broadly sketched, but they’re nonetheless effective in execution courtesy of Micky and Gary.
Yet if this album looks to move toward that point of salvation in the distance, it doesn’t come without its own stumbles on that journey. For as much as the character in “Alone Again Tonight” knows her string of one-night stands only leads to more pain, she’s going to lean on it anyway as a personal vice, if only to mask a greater pain of loneliness. And even though the character in “Break My Heart” can look on at the end of a relationship with fondness, he’s still going to try and see his partner one last time, even if it means leaving with his heart broke when he finds she’s moved on with someone else.
Even if the basic text can sometimes feel a little lacking, like how “All Looks The Same” skirts around the main point after its first verse and doesn’t develop its story all that far, the subtext is usually strong. For as much as a theme like “Thank My Mother’s God” has been played out, it never ends with the character buying into faith in the same way as his mother, but rather believing in the rigorous spirit she instills in him to keep going. If anything, too, sometimes reveling in the pain and facing it head-on is how we move on, like how on “Run Into You,” despite torturing himself with the thought of seeing his ex-lover move on with her life, it almost seems like it’d at least bring some closure for him.
And though Long Time Comin’ has, indeed, been a long time coming, the songwriting is stronger than it was before. Now let’s hope this newfound rejuvenation can lead to something bigger and better for Micky & the Motorcars, because they’ve earned it.