It’s no secret that rock n’ roll’s heyday has come and gone.
Stadiums in the first half of the new century are more often filled with Pop, Rap and D.I.Y. musicians over bigger-than-life rock bands. But Rock band White Reaper, a quintet from Louisville, Ky., whose sound might as well be a facsimile to ’70s and ’80s FM radio Rock bands, approach their craft with a hunger and confidence that just might shoot them to the top.
Released Oct. 18, “You Deserve Love,” the band’s third full-length album and first major label effort, following their signing to Elektra Records, continues their upward momentum while retaining the same tongue-in-cheek aura that was prevalent on albums with titles such as “White Reaper Does it Again” and “The World’s Best American Band.”
White Reaper’s attack thus far, has been a no frills, classic line-up Rock band (vocals, drums, bass, guitar.) But with the major label addition of Producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, FIDLAR) Reaper’s sleaze-rock era riffs and party-time, good feeling lyrics first heard on 2017’s “The World’s Best American Band,” have an anthemic sheen to them that makes “You Deserve Love” an enjoyable nostalgia-tinged, lean rock n’ roll journey that plays through in under 30 minutes.
Adding to the cohesiveness of “You Deserve Love,” from title track “Headwind,” until the closing title track, the band is fully in sync.
Tony Esposito (guitar/vocals) and Hunter Thompson (guitars) play interwoven guitar parts throughout that would make Thin Lizzy and Lynyrd Skynyrd proud. Sam Wilkerson (bass) and the rest of the band recently discussed “You Deserve Love” in-depth with Billboard, breaking down each track.
“‘Real Long Time’ is a good example of what a producer can do to a track,” Wilkerson said. “There were a lot of bits and pieces added in studio, like the bass and drum intro and the key lead in the chorus. We went for an Electric Light Orchestra vocal sound in the chorus, too. Most of it was recorded live.”
While Wilkerson is quick to give credit to the producer, it should be mentioned that White Reaper’s drummer, Nick is Sam Wilkerson’s brother, which may attribute to the great mix between bass and drums. Unlike many contemporary rock acts, White Reaper’s bass lines always sound so perfectly in the “pocket,” with each track being propelled by the smooth hum of bass, sitting just beneath the audio mix.
Sibling musicians often have a more polished sound, undoubtedly because of years spent playing together (reference Aston “Family Man” Barrett and Carlton Barrett of Bob Marley, or even the Van Halen brothers).
Key lyrics over the bouncy rhythm and soaring guitar solos include: “How come what you want and what you get always seem to be two different things?”
“Saturday” is another classic rock mashup that starts with pounding guitar and drums in the flavor of rock band KISS’s track “Love Gun” and really catches the rock n’ roll party mythos that White Reaper has been cultivating.
“This is another one of my favorites on the record because the chorus is so heavy,” Nick Wilkerson elaborates. “The drum beat in the verses didn’t sound good on the kit I played the rest of the record on, so Jay (Joyce, producer) rigged me up an interesting set-up with a tiny snare drum with a cloth over it. I made the fills that go into the chorus up on the spot and I think they turned out alright.”
White Reaper hasn’t ever made any claims about being “the world’s best, socially conscious rock band,” so if you’re looking for the immediacy and call to action that rock is also known for, don’t look here.
Three albums in, White Reaper is a young starry-eyed group just trying to fill the vacant giant glitter-tinged platform boots of their idols.
The result is a raucous, good feeling album that is closer to the traditional essence of rock n’ roll than it is to contemporary acts who have lost their artistic path in favor of commercial success.