I had the opportunity to meet and hangout with Brianna Blackbird and Drew de Man (otherwise known as Heart Hunters) before they entered the studio to record their stunning debut album American Eclipse (Pretend Sweethearts). So I was looking forward to hearing their voices blend together, wondering how their life experiences would shape their songs, and curious how Peter Case, singer songwriter extraordinaire, would produce their effort. With high expectations I pressed play and sat back to listen.
The first track “Normal America” hits you immediately. Blackbird’s voice is instantly compelling and when the tale of how our commercialist culture runs us into the grave mixes with classic country steel guitar you just have to sit back and let it wash over you.
De Man starts off “Sparrow to the Moon” before Blackbird joins him. Their voices complement each other perfectly and intertwine with the jangly guitar and Don Heffington’s propulsive drumming, leaving us with one of the album’s standout moments. “The Good Fight” instantly conjures up The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” but moves away quickly as Fats Kaplin’s swirling middle eastern inspired strings weave in and out of the combined vocals and bombastic drumming. “Cristo,” sung entirely in Spanish and sparsely accompanied with guitar and violin, is as beautiful a song as you will ever hear. Blackbirds voice is delicate, wanting and soaring throughout. “A Thousand Lifetimes” is hands down my favorite song. It is upbeat, again thanks to Heffington’s excellent drumming and Blackbird’s love song to her partner sums up a relationship that was impossible to resist, fought hard for and will not be easily surrendered.
The organ and mandolin playing in “Wild Little Wind” adds flavor to a lyrical showcase where the duo combine voices with amazing results. Closing with “A Love This True” seems appropriate. De Man takes lead vocal, accompanied by some nice mandolin courtesy of Fats Kaplin, before Blackbird joins in. Her voice is a revelation and I found myself listening and relistening to this track. This is rare for me to say but there is not a single misfire in the entire collection. The players came to play and Peter Case put the pieces together resulting in a fantastic album. American Eclipse is a crisp, personal, engaging, intriguing, inspired release from Heart Hunters. Get your copy and find tour dates, here. https://pretendsweethearts.com/