REVIEW: Hope Dunbar’s “Sweetheartland” is One of the Most Perfect Vocals Ever


Hope Dunbar – Sweetheartland

With what I consider one of the most perfect female country vocals that ever spilled from my speakers – a voice that exudes the tradition of the genre, Hope Dunbar’s classy tone with these 9-cuts was a delight to listen to. There end of review — short & sweet.

Well, I should say something. The album drops April 2nd Sweetheartland (Independent) & rocks when it has to rock (“What Were You Thinkin’?”) & stays on the prairie when it needs to. “What Were You Thinkin’?” shows Hope’s skill with lyrics. This clever rollicking lyrical piece with a dynamic arrangement & soaring harmonica showcases Hope’s tasty aggressive & invigorating approach to her work.

What makes the song special? It tells a damn story!

Nebraska’s Hope Dunbar on her 2nd effort has the goods & her band cooks. Extolling the genre of Americana dashed with country-folk the flavor is New American Prairie Style. I like it.

Joining Hope (acoustic guitar) to bring her songs to life are Zack Smith (acoustic/electric/ slide & Resonator guitars/banjo/harmonica/percussion & backing vocals), Jesse Thompson (acoustic & electric guitars/background vocals), Andrew Benfante (keyboards), Taylor Thompson & Justin Ferwerda (bass), Dillon Napier (drums), Reed Waddle, Kyshona Armstrong & Shannon Labrie (background vocals).

Many of the tales Hope unwinds through her lyrics are basic stories but it’s her cleverness with words, phrases & tying them into melodies that are solid that make the entire experience satisfying. None of the songs sound the same – songs like “Evacuate” are still in her genre but she sings it with such a progressive vivid vocal style that she shapes it into something gripping. The aching lead guitars shove their way through the notes like city pedestrians on a busy noon-day sidewalk. Her note holding is impressive on this tune & she should employ that drama even more.

She manages to negotiate a ragged vocal implication though her pure voice keeps it in control on “The Road Is.” The off-beat snare lends a dramatic pulse & accentuates nicely as the stringed instruments keep the beauty of the song driving. Nice work. Because it’s not what’s expected.

Hope’s showcase is a worthy experience. The songs are engaging, some have melodies that are infectious – “Dust,” for instance follows a Bruce Springsteen (“Girls in Their Summer Clothes”) & James Maddock (“My Old Neighborhood”) impression. This is a compelling little song. Her choice of words laid out in the short song “More” is loaded with phrases seldom heard in most pop songs, and ironically easily relatable to many listeners. There’s no heavy trip here or metaphor trickery.

Hope Dunbar is a singer-songwriter but more importantly, she is a good storyteller.

The 31-minute CD was produced by Zack Smith & Jesse Thompson. Available @

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