“It’s midnight on the avenue / I’ve never felt more alive / Makes no difference what I do / Am I living to just survive?” ponders a humble Reed Waddle in “Bells of Brooklyn,” one of the two songs found on his new sample EP Too Bright to Fade Away, a preview of his next album. Tethering himself to an iconic strain of folk-rock without descending into the dreaded realm of throwbacks, Waddle breaks off some of the warmer balladry of his career to date in Too Bright to Fade Away, reminding us of how epic a simple songcraft can be in the right setting.

The title track in this record has a classically alternative structure, taking a bit from Screaming Trees-style surrealism and Death Cab self-awareness, but its countrified backbone suggests a desire on Reed Waddle’s part to adhere more to pastoral concepts than anything else. There are a lot of hybrids making their way into the spotlight in 2020, and though this isn’t quite a puritanical offering, it’s definitely on the streamlined side of the spectrum. Waddle doesn’t seem like the type to care a whole lot about trends, lest he lead them with his own brand of songwriting, that is.

“Bells of Brooklyn” is the softer song between these two, but the passion we discover in both tracks is equally off the charts even at a moderate distance. There’s no doubt that Reed Waddle is imparting a little piece of his soul to us when he’s scaling the chorus in the aforementioned track, and though Higher Ground and Creatures of the Heart debatably saw him being just as emotional with his statements, neither of those records had as much of a relaxed, anti-tension energy as these songs do. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the album they were cut from, and that’s putting it rather mildly.

BANDCAMP: https://reedwaddle.bandcamp.com/album/too-bright-to-fade-away

There’s definitely more of a traditional folk element to Too Bright to Fade Away than I was initially expecting to find, but all the same, this rustic approach Waddle is embracing as he gets older is something I want him to stick with for future output. There are a lot of different ways to grow into your sound, but this singer/songwriter isn’t rejecting the natural trajectory he started on some sixteen years ago in favor of taking a populist route to seasoned success. He’s bringing in an atmospheric component to his sound, and I’m eager to hear what it will produce in his next studio sessions.

Those who haven’t heard the collective works of Mr. Reed Waddle would do well to check out what he’s got to say on Too Bright to Fade Away this summer, mostly just to find some appreciation for one of the more underrated players in his scene today. Too Bright to Fade Away doesn’t feel like a mere teaser – this is a cornerstone moment for Waddle’s career, and with the right exposure I think it could yield him the respect he’s long deserved from the press and audiences alike.

Garth Thomas