John Oates - of Hall and Oates for those not sure - continues with quite soulful songs as a solo artists, though contemporary pop inflections add to the mix as one might imagine if you want to sell in the current market. Opener Stone Cold Love is a good example of that poppier tilt, whilst second The Head That Wears the Crown is more in the soul vein, the vocal taking on a Curtis Mayfield feel, and Jerry Douglas adding fine guitar work. Third Pushing a Rock Uphill makes up this trio of interesting starts, this again in a Mayfield-talking tone, and the funky rhythm is pleasing enough, a soulful chorus creating some depth to the overall sound.
Fourth Believe in Me is funkier still, with Bekka Bramlett contributing background vocal in the soul strut. By the time we get to fifth High Maintenance, that soul-pop soup is thoroughly mixed and heated, a light lunch on a chilly day and satisfying as such. I mention the 'fifth' for a particular reason, the fact that the album's fifteen tracks have been conceived as three EPs of five tracks each, and that explanation in itself is all one can actually add to the reality of this.
Sixth Close, and thus the first track on the second EP, is a Jim Lauderdale/John Oates composition [and there are two others] but it doesn't really reflect the former's Country skills in any obvious way, Oates by now continuing with a rather gritty 'talking' vocal. Seventh Stand Strong is an atmospheric blues chug, and eighth Lose it in Louisiana is an acoustic track with country-blues fiddle and other apt accompaniments in a song mentioning New Orleans, Bourbon Street, all to the laid-back pace of finger clicks. Eleventh Don't Cross Me Wrong is worth a mention for its opening slide guitar and the vocal of Vince Gill, not that it is particularly obvious, and I think this is a missed opportunity - Oates' vocal throughout a growl that has usually been graced by the Philly-sweet pitch of partner Hall, and Gill's smooth harmonising voice would have been an equally sweet addition here.