EP review for The Thief and the Heartbreaker by Alberta Cross released through Ark Recordings.
New York-based country rockers Alberta Cross must be the least likely band anyone could ever have expected the brothers Gallagher to ask to open for them on their arena tour earlier this year. Strangely enough, that's what happened, meaning this Americana flavoured five-piece followed in the hallowed footsteps of people like The Bandits, Twisted Wheel, Sergeant and The 22-20s. God knows what the Burberry and Hackett clad masses would have made of a band whose stylings are infinitely more suited to the Reds Stage at All Tomorrow's Parties, but at least it shows that Noel and/or Liam have pretty damn reasonable tastes in music, even if it doesn't always necessarily translate itself that well in their own material.
Of course there is a more cynical school of thought that the main reason Alberta Cross were chosen to support Oasis came about from the current fascination with all things Kings Of Leon, and that they would be seen as a low-budget alternative by those arriving early still buzzing off the anodyne Bruce Springsteen rip-off that is 'Sex On Fire'. One thing's for sure, it has certainly helped rise the profile of a band who were one of 2007's hidden gems, a more obscure My Morning Jacket with less riffs but a bucketload of emotion both lyrically and in the epic way each song seeps out like it was their last.
Its quite ironic that Alberta Cross met and subsequently formed pretty much by accident, yet their multi-continental make-up of members raised in Sweden, England and the States seems to have held them in good stead, not to mention given them an added edge when it comes to grasping at the vast array of influences that have come their way towards making such a deceptively obtuse record as this.
Although 'The Thief And The Heartbreaker' was released last year to a crescendo of critical accolades, it has actually dated so well that it almost feels like a new record, more of its time now than before rather than a re-release merely to highlight the fact the band don't have any other (newer) material to promote around the commercially make-or-break Oasis dates.
Reference points vary between the sixties harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young or even The Band, while there is also an uncanny resemblance to the likes of Canyon or even Akron/Family. What sets them apart from their more recent contemporaries however is that there is something infinitely more believable about Alberta Cross and the characters they sing about ('Lucy Rider', 'Old Man Chicago') than those previously mentioned, who sometimes concentrate more on drawing the songs out to comatose length rather than getting straight to the point.
Petter Ericson Stakkee's vocal delivery is both striking and poignant enough to stand out without ever sounding repugnant and clichéd, while closing epic 'The Devil's All You Ever Had' is quite possibly the most uplifting tale of a heartbreaking relationship delivered via a southerly drawl and steel pedal glissando these ears have ever heard. All that remains to be said is hurry up with that second album; for now though, 'The Thief And The Heartbreaker' is a timely reminder of Alberta Cross and their immense talents.