The Lloyd Carter Band – Nothing To Lose – Album Review
You know…it’s funny…I’d bet that there would be a ton of people out there that would assume Country music isn’t something I look forward to reviewing based on my own preferences & personal taste – but that would be incorrect. As a sworn defender of music that’s good in ANY genre or style – I think the Country music that tends to show up at SBS ends up representing some of the very best out there in the independent scene without question…because it IS more rare to find at this site, which I readily admit. To me, I’ve always taken it as a sign that the artist, band, and support surrounding the music, must really believe in the material…I think it takes confidence to put your tunes out there into the fringe of the internet & test the waters out – it makes a statement on behalf of the strength of the music right away.
Which, as you can see, brings us to The Lloyd Carter Band today – and considering this is a debut record, that’s an even bolder statement ain’t it? Yaaaaa…well…within twenty-seconds you’ll realize this cat Lloyd Carter & his cohorts of audio-awesomeness are no joke – the title-track “Nothing To Lose” reveals the inspired spark you wanna hear coming out of your speakers instantly. Guitars play a significant role in that, from the immediately engaging presence they play in the first moments as it starts up, to the wild solos in the second-minute, or the notes bending away in the background layers…there’s tons to dig into & enjoy – and as far as the rest of the band is concerned, everything is spot-on right where it should be. What’s the real X-factor, you ask? Quite honestly, it’s right there on the microphone. Lloyd’s got an exceptional voice & a ton of songwriting talent – between his own organic self-taught instincts and the immaculate amount of character & tone he sings with, not only will he impress your ears right off the bat with “Nothing To Lose,” but he’ll go on to prove that bringing his A-game when the studio lights come on & it’s time to record, comes completely naturally to him throughout this solid lineup of songs. Solid riffs from the guitars, steady beat to the drums, and all the hallmarks of a modern-day Country sound that’s bound to make its impression on the masses out there – the instant appeal & accessibility of Carter’s music stands out right away, every bit as much as the professional approach & production.
“Live Life Well” was one of those extremely vivid & well-written tunes, laced with beautiful imagery in the words and a stunning performance from the main man on the mic, which you’ll find are essentially constants that remain fully intact throughout this whole record. As a person that always believes there are songs that are great to turn up, and then there are songs that’ll help you get to know an artist or band better than the rest – “Live Life Well” is more the latter of the two scenarios. That’s not to say you won’t wanna turn it up just like the others on the album, of course you will, this record is built on a whole collection of solid material – it’s more to say that it feels like you get more insight into the man behind the music throughout the sincere words & sentiment of “Live Life Well,” know what I mean? What a VOICE though eh? Time after time of spinning through Nothing To Lose, I kept coming back to the incredible shift of sound you get between the transition from song one to song two right away, and just how much you immediately start to recognize just how bulletproof this debut album is really gonna be. I’ll say this…if I was just considering the chorus, I’d tell ya this is a single without question, because “Live Life Well” contains one of the record’s most memorable hooks right there – but in considering the more grounded & slow-burning sound to the verses, the overall range in the style & sound of this second track probably goes a bit beyond what the radio-stations can handle for your drive-time commute in a Top-40 world. That being said – do I think this second cut shows more depth in the songwriting and establishes a stronger connection to the music? Absolutely. I’m 100% comfortable in saying I feel like “Live Life Well” was a stronger cut than the title-track from my own personal perspective, though I’d be much more likely to tell ya that between the two, “Nothing To Lose” would be the song more suited for mass consumption as a single. Essentially, they’re both extremely strong tunes for their own different reasons, and thankfully, we don’t have to choose – we get’em both on this one record, and each contributes major positives as Nothing To Lose gets rolling along with great tunes.
There’s really something to be said for taking your time; whether it’s intentional or simply the result of the busyness of life itself – sometimes things just go at the pace they’re supposed to, and when everything snaps into place at long last, you can tell it all feels like it fell into exactly the right place. According to legend & the notes I’ve got in front of me here, Carter’s been packin’ around a notebook of songs that trace back to a love of his craft that has at least a thirty-year history to this point in time. So take a track like “That Baby Will Run” – and consider the fact that, aside from two singles released last year – this is the actual debut from The Lloyd Carter Band; recognize that, even though it might have taken some time to get here, it’s all been worth the waiting…and that for a first record, songs like this one prove they’re now miles ahead of the rest. The extra grit in the way that Lloyd sings this song with – that brilliant guitar hook that comes in to answer the vocals in response to the hooks in the chorus, the smart layers of keyboard synths emphasizing the melody, the sleek design of the entire structure & flow – you gotta love the supreme display of balance at work here. Hearing Carter reach for his range and bring the power to moments like around the 2:35-ish spot or 3:15-ish area is excellent – dude’s got the goods when it comes to his versatility and ability to entertain. When it’s called for & suits the song, he’ll get fired up in those spots I pointed out – and then you’ll hear him transition right back into a refined professional smoothness that’s every bit as engaging, just in a totally different way than you heard in what seems like only mere seconds before. At three songs in without any kind of monumental or even slight flaw to be found – you start to recognize the trend of excellence in the attention to detail that runs throughout Nothing To Lose and the rock-solid consistency to be found in Carter as a songwriter. There are definitely more than a few candidates that would make a great gateway into this album as a single out there – and “That Baby Will Run” is certainly one of’em with its inspired performances, sleek grooves, and smartly designed storyline details that run through the words…this cut makes an impact. It’s the kind of execution from start to finish that confirms The Lloyd Carter Band are where they belong.
“Can’t Never Could” would be another highlight example of Carter’s ability to combine his own life experiences into the songs he sings – a tributary tune in every way, he’s done an exceptional job in the words of this cut & dives deep into the father/son relationship thematically. “Live every second of the day you’ve got” – comes through shining like a sweet reminder & steady guidance, as so many of these lines do, many based on the advice/life of his father if I’m putting this story all together correctly. It’s a true tale of the man’s-man…the old-stock…the good guys that they just don’t make any more in a world filled with modern conveniences that have us hairy dudes choppin’ a whole lot less wood & microwaving more meals now than hunting’em down like we used to…you know the guys I’m talking about. The generation of folks that paved the way for us today…Lloyd Carter pays his respects here in a wonderful way, not just to his own father, but to that entire set of values and their continued importance in this world. I suppose what I’m saying is he doesn’t just tell you the ‘what’ – he tells you the ‘why’ as well, know what I mean? On “Can’t Never Could” you get the full picture and it’s so brilliantly clear in your mind as they play & sing this song – it’s got one of the most naturally inviting & welcoming sounds to it, which perfectly sets up Carter’s words to hit home, and truly be heard. If you’re paying close attention, I’m tellin’ ya, you’ll hear that the wisdom in these words have made Lloyd the man he proudly is today.
As much as I’ve personally tried to resist most things Country-music throughout most of my life, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to appreciate it all…maybe that’s one of those age-meets-wisdom type-things, I honestly don’t know. My main theory is that our musical palettes change every bit as much as our taste-buds do over time…well that, and the fact that real melody & great songwriting always comes shining through, no matter what genre, style, artist, or band, we’re listening to. When I listen to a song like “Better Days,” I gotta admit…this is where folks like The Lloyd Carter Band get me smiling & willing to relent…this is that kind of crossover cut that has the ability to pull us all onboard. The addition of piano strengthens the melody brilliantly on this tune…I wouldn’t take an ounce of credit away from that fact, because it really plays a pivotal role in sweetening this song in every way, along with the gentle strings that eventually float into the background as well. BUT…here’s the thing…Lloyd gives you nothing to complain about when it comes to structure & execution to begin with – and as he shifts into the melody of the chorus for the first time around the forty-second mark…well…let’s just say he raises the stakes so far beyond expectation at that point, that I was absolutely floored. The main hook of “Better Days” absolutely has Carter sounding at his inspired best, the songwriting is superb & the way he sings it reveals just how much heart & soul that Lloyd is capable of putting through the mic.
As far as I’ve read in the liner-notes here, “It’s Friday Night” features Lloyd’s longtime friend/fellow artist Colt Ford. This cut has the energy & juice flowing right from the drop – and hey – why not Friday night? Knowing precious little about either Country Music or Football personally…all I can tell ya for certain is that together, they’ve dominated Mondays for what feels like a lifetime already…so having The Lloyd Carter Band & Ford pursue a different day of the week is A-OK with me. Highly-related side-note…has anyone out there heard a name more suited to the County genre than COLT FORD? I mean, he’s rappin’ it up here…and while I might not know much about anything really, I know this to be true – that is a name that sounds like a man born for Country – & he lives up to it here on “It’s Friday Night,” taking on the bars towards the final third of this cut to add a completely different dimension to this single-worthy collaborative cut. Is it my favorite song on the record? Irrelevant! But there’s a damn good chance it could be yours. Look…I’m always gonna argue on behalf of the songs that might not be able to fight for themselves as hard through your stereo speakers like “Live Life Well,” “His Last Chance,” or “When We Say Goodbye” – “It’s Friday Night” doesn’t have that same style of gentle demeanor & doesn’t need me to advocate on its behalf in that regard – it’s a crystal-clear example of a bona fide Country-anthem at its amped-up finest and an equally clear-choice as what should be a main single enticing the people out there into this record, 100%. I also think that, in terms of the layout of the album, having “It’s Friday Night” and its addictive blue-collar vibes designed to turn good-times into great-ones found a perfect spot in the lineup, firing-up the energy & putting the spark back into Nothing To Lose right when you need it most. Undeniably single-worthy cut though…zero doubt about that; no set of ears could miss it.
On the strengths of the tone, technique, and incredible melody that soars throughout the guitars on “His Last Chance” alone, I would have been more than willing to give this cut a solid thumbs-up. Excellent personality in this tune from the emotion in the lyrics to the expression in the music; I love how a lot of what’s being sung in this song gets a real moment in the spotlight to stand-out apart from the rest. The use of pace, space, and structure, lead The Lloyd Carter Band to victory here – in fact, at many points throughout the verses, you’ll find Lloyd nearly on his own with very little surrounding him. While I’d never take any points away from the exceptional musicianship that runs throughout this record – this tiny switch in the approach really makes all the difference here in helping highlight the strengths of both main elements – the vocals sound fantastic when Carter’s relatively on his own, and equally, when you hear the solos & instrumentation light-up, you truly end up appreciating just how incredible that is too. You’ll find more than a few great solos on this record, but the way The Lloyd Carter Band ends “His Last Chance” by letting the musicianship have its deserved moment in the spotlight to bring it home was another excellent decision – they sound fantastic as they play their way instrumentally to the finish. As far as love-songs go, I think The Lloyd Carter Band has done a remarkable job of bringing the sweetness to the surface of this song, and it’s another highlight example of their hybrid sound at its finest. You can hear Pop, Rock, Country, 70’s Soul music, and more roaming throughout the spirit of “His Last Chance” – melodically & musically, they’ve put in the attention to detail that adds up to something truly special.
Being the aforementioned melody-guy that I am, there’s no doubt that “When We Say Goodbye” was one of my favorites on the record with its crossover design. Were it not for the classic Country drawl you can hear in the way Carter sings, “When We Say Goodbye” is one of those cuts that could very well find success in multiple styles – and anytime you feel that way about a song is a real indication of its true potential. I hear a track like “When We Say Goodbye,” and it’s radiantly apparent that the sincerity of a melody like this has massive appeal to it – and style-wise, you can hear the versatility it possesses. I keep coming back to the thought of ‘how ISN’T this my favorite track on the album?’ – and it’s really only because the execution, passion, and commitment put in by all hands on deck throughout this debut is so remarkably impressive, that Lloyd Carter & Co. have made it so very tough to choose. Ultimately, I think “When We Say Goodbye” benefits incredibly from the smart use of piano/keys, another highlight performance from Lloyd on the mic, and a more versatile shift in the songwriting that brings a bit more of a Pop/Indie element to the mix. For real y’all – this is what appealing hybrid sound is all about – you could hear that artists or bands from entirely different genres could take a song like “When We Say Goodbye” and it would hold up completely in any style – and that always tells you that you’ve got something special with a high degree of appeal to a really large audience. Personally, I love the sincerity you’ll find in this tune and the endearing way that Lloyd sings it – and beyond that, I felt like “When We Say Goodbye” also adds a beautifully unique combination of sound to the lineup of Nothing To Lose that was unlike any other song. If I was The Lloyd Carter Band, I’d be having a hard look at this song & how strong it came out with such a delicate sound – and definitely at the potential reach it has for people like myself that sit forever on the fringe of Country, looking, listening, and searching for a way in to enjoy it – “When We Say Goodbye” is the kind of song that puts me permanently aboard this bandwagon forever. Make no mistake, it only takes mere seconds into this record to recognize that Lloyd Carter was built for Country music with the booming character in his voice – but it’s cuts like “When We Say Goodbye” that have you realizing & appreciating just how much depth & dimension he brings to his songwriting overall.
Depending on how you’re listening to this record, “Hand You Hold” might be the end of the line for ya in the ninth-spot of the set-list…but *SPOILER ALERT* it doesn’t HAVE to be that way – & we’ll get into that in a bit. Right now, in terms of the lineup that you’ll see out there on the internet the most, having this song at the end, to me, created a solid conclusion to Nothing To Lose that was highly satisfying. Like the best of the best songwriters out there, Lloyd draws on pain, heartbreak, nostalgia, and sweet memories throughout “Hand You Hold” – and he creates quite the compelling final moment with this swirl of emotion. There’s no doubt whatsoever that “Hand You Hold” dives fearlessly into some of the hardest of the hard moments in the circle of life…”dyin’ seems so easy, livin’ seems so hard, when you lose someone you love with all your heart…so cherish every moment with the ones you love the most” – let’s be real here, it might be wise to keep a box of Kleenex on hand, because this song could punch you right in the gut at the core of your feelings. As much as I’d love to say that “Hand You Hold” is completely fictional and the example of a well-written fable…honestly, I can’t imagine that’s the case; if it IS, then give the man even more credit for making this moment as real as it becomes, but chances are, this is a song that’s based on some seriously tough real-life experience. I can recognize that it’s not going to be the happiest tune you’re gonna hear in 2020…but there’s catharsis in writing a song like this that is important to an artist’s evolution as a songwriter…and sometimes it’s in creating a moment like this that creates the opportunity for just about every other moment in life to become possible again afterwards. There’s no question about the heaviness of the subject & theme of “Hand You Hold” and how much weight you’ll feel in listening to it…and if you find yourself relating, sympathizing, or empathizing with these words Lloyd’s singing, believe me when I say, you’ll feel how devastating & close to the heart this song really is. It’s because of Carter’s craft & personal perspective that a song like “Hand You Hold” finds any light whatsoever in the dark…otherwise it could have been a justifiably miserable melody & final moment on Nothing To Lose…but you’ll hear in his authentic emotions, wise words, and moving imagery, that even amidst the worst of circumstances & personal tragedy, he finds his way back to hope & love by the end. Which is good, cause otherwise we might have all been crushed by “Hand You Hold.”
If you were savvy to the scene in 2019, you would have noticed the early steps into the spotlight as The Lloyd Carter Band prepped their debut, with two songs released in advance of Nothing To Lose. Don’t PANIC if you didn’t get to’em yet, I’ve got GREAT news for you – if you get this record direct from their website, you’ll get a physical copy of the CD that contains both songs remastered for ya. And let me tell ya…from the moment I heard “Come Dance With Me” for the very first time, I instantly recognized just how stoked I was to get more of The Lloyd Carter Band as a bonus – this is an ESSENTIAL tune, and another huge departure from what we’ve heard that displays an entirely different style & sound as they sweetly & soulfully sway their way through this gentle gem. I would certainly hope that this song paid off in spades for generating interest in this record after having been released early – and those that know “Come Dance With Me” should definitely be excited about its inclusion onto Nothing To Lose. After hearing such consistently great tunes from the most defined side of his Country sound with a few noted deviations, and not knowing “Come Dance With Me” previously, it becomes a complete breath of fresh air as you head into the bonus tracks, putting an entirely unique song into the mix that reveals just how successful this band can be in a whole variety of styles. YES I think this album holds up absolutely fine on its own with the original lineup of nine tunes – especially in considering it’s a debut – but two things can be true at the same time…and in my opinion, this first bonus cut was 100% irresistible too. Like…listen to the way those guitar notes & vocal melody glide so smoothly through this song will ya?
Equally strong is “Autumn Leaves” as we finish back on the strengths of The Lloyd Carter Band’s more recognizable signature sound. I gotta say – I’m not just impressed with the songs, I’m impressed with the entire layout of the record, the flow it has, the structure – and even these choices as lead-singles to have had out there before Nothing To Lose was completed. Usually I find myself disagreeing with most choices as to the selection of a single for a record…but you won’t find me complaining here – I think “Come Dance With Me” can’t help but stand out for all the right reasons, and I felt like “Autumn Leaves” was a perfect representation of the Country-side of their style, with all the memorable hooks & firepower in the songwriting as the very best of the rest you’ll find on the official record online. As he cycles through the seasons in the imagery of “Autumn Leaves,” and the guitars sparkle & shine around Carter as he sings, they finish this experience on one last dose of expressive emotion, inciting that reach for repeat. This is definitely a man with a gift for writing songs that connect, blessed with a band that contains players like Gary DiBenedetto & Henry Mcgill that have all the right skills & talent required to execute these ideas in-full – from start to finish, they’ve got every reason to be extremely proud of all that they’ve accomplished throughout Nothing To Lose, and highly optimistic about the future to follow.
Find out more about The Lloyd Carter Band from the official website: https://www.lloydcartermusic.com
Join the thousands of bands & artists reviewed at sleepingbagstudios by clicking here!