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Willie Nelson maybe have famously written the rascally romantic ballad “You Were Always on My Mind,” but Future Lives up that ante on their new song, “The Strangest Dreams.” One of its best lyrics: “I didn’t call because you knew I loved you / I penned a tune for you instead.” It’s a standout line among many on their new LP, Mansions.
The Athens, Georgia Americana supergroup — composed of members from King of Prussia, Drive-By Truckers and Japancakes — added eight more musicians to their core six members to make the album’s recording sessions heavily stacked. And yet, “The Strangest Dreams” is a deeply intimate, bare-bones acoustic number. With it and more boisterous songs like the steadily escalating opener “Kazakhstan” and the rip-roaring joyous midway track “St. John’s Fair,” Future Lives showcase a richly varied range.
Other highlights include the punchy percussion and congregation choir ohs before the chorus of “Dancin’ with the Stars”; the heart-wrenching Gospel backing vocals on “Continental Drift Divide”; the declarative singing and Celtic guitar rhythms on “Quotes”; and the breezy strumming, hummable chorus and soothing harmonica on “Stumble On.”
Then there are the lyrics. The prospect of winding down a country road and vanishing out of sight is turned into a chorus and a romantic proposal on “Vanishers,” while lines like “You say religion does your head in” captivate on “Dancin’ With the Stars.” Perhaps best of all is the comparatively economic couplet “I took her to the city hall / I took her to the Berlin Wall,” which lends “Kazakhstan” a compelling evocativeness.
It all adds up to a dynamic and wide-ranging collection of songs from one of the Americana genre’s most promising up-and-coming groups.