The Great Divide

REVIEW: The Great Divide “Providence”


The Great Divide — Providence

Far too many bands have started out with the self-imposed mission to “save” country music. Oklahoma’s The Great Divide is one of the few that succeeded in that quest, at least in their part of the world. The Red Dirt purveyors, emerging from the late 90s era of pop-country, recorded five rootsy albums around the turn of the century before band turbulence took over and frontman Mike McClure departed for a solo career. What seemed to be an irreparable fracture actually started to heal a decade ago as the reunited band began to play together, but it took nearly 20 years before a new album would appear. Providence represents reunion and maturity while still providing enough stomp ‘n’ swing to keep a dancehall sweaty deep into the night.

Providence kicks off with “Wrong Is Overrated,” a mea culpa of sorts from songwriter McClure. The buoyant country tune asks to get the band to get back together – “One more time with feeling if you still have some” – while acknowledging the scars caused by drugs, alcohol and words that can’t be taken back – “All of the things that I love the best/Are things that I have sometimes hated.” Without knowing the history of The Great Divide, this track could be a love song (turns out, that’s exactly what it is).

If it’s actual love songs you’re after, The Great Divide has you covered. “I can Breathe Again” finds some of that glossy, early 90s vibe that just begs for a slow dance. “My Sweet Lily,” though, is a bit more lived in. Bathed in steel guitar, the song is an appreciation for the eventual reward for a life roughly lived – “You’re my redemption/For the miles I’ve traveled.” And “Into The Blue,” full of mandolin and Dobro, celebrates the love that survives the chaos – “You gave me your all/To stand and not fall/And forget them all that forget you.”

The theme of Providence, though, is the notion of not wasting any more time. The album’s lead single, “Good Side,” features stand-out organ work from the band’s newest member, Bryce Conway, and reminds the listener to enjoy life’s most important moments – “The letting go and the coming home/Is something that I know I really needed.” “Slipping Away,” which bounces steel guitar and nice harmonies against an island beat, asks for nothing more complicated than a fruity drink and sand in your toes. “Infinite Line,” though, gets things moving again. McClure realizes the amount of time that petty grievances can burn away – “I’ve seen a half a century/Go by like it was smoke” – and mortality is yet undefeated – “There’s nothing as restless/As the hands of time/Keeps it all rolling/Down the infinite line.” The Great Divide knows they won’t win this particular battle – no one does – but they’re newly intent on enjoying the ride to the now not-so-bitter end.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Infinite Line” – this country pulser, with loads of organ and electric riffs, will get any crowd jumping.

Providence was produced by The Great Divide, recorded, engineered and mixed by Eric Delegard and mastered by Alex McCullough. All songs were written by Mike McClure (“Set It All Down” co-written by Chrislyn Lawrence). The Great Divide is Mike McClure (vocals, guitars), Kelley Green (bass), Scotte Lester (rhythm guitar), JJ Lester (drums) and Bryce Conway (keyboards).

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