There are some albums that take a couple of songs to really turn us on with nothing more than tonality, but if you ask me, Billy Droze’s Waiting out the Storm is not one of these albums. Instead of teasing us with the eclectic but constantly stirring talents he has to offer anyone with an ear for bold bluegrass melodicism, Droze gets right down to business in the title track and opening cut from Waiting out the Storm, and while the song runs a moderate three minutes and change, it gives us more than a hearty sampling of what this LP is going to be celebrating. Pastoral poeticisms and brooding harmonies aside, this record speaks to a side of Americana deserving of a little more spotlight in modern times.
“Small Town Mystery” is a bit more conventional than its tracklist predecessor, but it doesn’t create a sonic barrier between the luster of the opening song and the cutting, sharp poetic drawl of “Anywhere the Wind Might Blow,” one of my favorite compositions here. Droze’s voice is a heart-melting focal point in this track, and while the same could probably be said for the performance he contributes to a country fan-friendly “Bring on the Wind,” the former feels a little more intimate in spirit than the latter does in some ways (though they’re ultimately two sides of the same coin). He’s got a God-given gift, and that’s pretty easy to appreciate in any song you’re going to hear on Waiting out the Storm.
“Miss Me Anymore,” “Here We Are” and “Dreamer’s Melody” sound like a trio of tracks never meant to be separated, but instead heard as the live concert medley we can all picture them comprising in the right venue. There isn’t much among the selection of songs included in Waiting out the Storm that doesn’t sound stage-ready, but these in particular could set up a summer jam like few others could in Billy Droze’s discography. “Night Birds” is an outright step into crossover country territory with a pinch of red dirt thrown in for good measure, and while “Woman of My Life” and “She’s Still Here” are truer to the traditions of bluegrass, they don’t feel any purer aesthetically than the other tracks here do.
Another slow song in “Pretending” washes us in vocal-based melodies and sexy guitar indulgence (of the best kind) but doesn’t prepare us for the bluesy sizzle of “How I Tell You Goodbye;” and to be fair, not much could have. Billy Droze finishes us off with Sonya Isaacs in a memorable collaboration titled “All You Gotta Do is Listen,” one of the longest songs on the album at 3:45 total, and when it’s all over their voices hauntingly remain in the air around us on the strength of the track’s enduring harmony. Waiting out the Storm isn’t a fireside diary entry from the eye of a hurricane – it’s the wind ripping everything apart, and it is definitely the most charming bluegrass LP of the year yet.