Prime Cuts: Back to the River, Don't Leave Me Leavin' (with Jason Blaine), Kiss Me
Banks is Music Row's best kept secret. But with the advent of "When You Can Fly" she won't be a secret for very long. To insiders of the Nashville community and to those who assiduously study CD liner notes, Banks is a country writer without peer. Impressive is perhaps an understatement in describing Banks' CV which includes penning hits such as "Saints and Angels" (Sara Evans), "Remember That" (Jessica Simpson), "Why Wait" (Kristy Lee Cook), "Dance with Me" (Johnny Reid) among many others. Yet when Banks takes on the microphone, she's just as enthralling. Every note she sings exudes an engaging passion; in fact, her ability to make every syllable sound vital is a trope in Banks' arsenal in her assault of the charts. And with songs of such high calibre as represented here, Banks' success should rival or even excel many of her clients.
Essentially "When You Can Fly" is a radio friendly country pop effort that is as polished as a diner countertop. It has its requisite array of country rockers beginning with the propulsive "The Wheel." With wailing guitars and heart-pumping drums, Banks waxes philosophical on "The Wheel" about the forging ahead despite of life's setbacks, a track so appropriate of our times. "Kiss Me," not that Sixpence But None Richer hit, but a Banks' original, is so infectious that you can help but press repeat again and again after each time this song ends. On "Long Gone Train" Banks teams with former Exile member J. P. Pennington in crafting one of the best "train" songs in years. Telling the story of a frustrated lady with her paramour's faux promises, adieu has never sounded that good. And for those who like the arena-rock a la Rascal Flatts, "I Can't" is sure to impress. Starting off with the gentle strumming of a guitar before exploding into a full blown rock anthem, "I Can't" finds Banks at her vocal best belting over some long and high notes.
When it comes to the ballads, the apogee is the power love song "Don't Leave Me Leavin.'" Joining vocals with Canadian country heartthrob Jason Blaine, "Don't Leave Me Leavin" is stamped with the word "hit" all over. The heartfelt lyrics, the memorable tune and the two well blended voices are all winning combinations to make "Don't Leave Me Leavin'" a future Valentine classic. More reflective is the bluesy "Sacred" which celebrates the power of love with spiritual overtones. While the acoustic-sounding "Back to the River" is one of the album's quieter (and more country) moments. The delightful fiddle and steel create the perfect backdrop for Banks to narrate this beautiful ballad of a woman trying to chase away the ghost of her past.
"When You Can Fly" is a stellar effort from start to finish. The variety in themes and tempos certainly create an engaging listen right through the disc. But overall, you'll find a young lady who sings each note as if her life is dependent on it. Her passion is contagious and her vocal nuances bring out a realism often missing in younger artists. With this new disc, Banks flies with class and affection.