Radio Company’s third studio album, Keep On Ramblin’ is out now! Keeping with tradition, Nerds & Beyond is back with a track-by-track review of the band’s third project (see Vol. 1 and Vol. 2‘s reviews here at their respective links). Check out our thoughts on the band’s newest project below!
“Right Kind of Trouble”
“Right Kind of Trouble” kicks off the country vibe of Keep on Ramblin’ immediately. Jensen Ackles and Steve Carlson’s harmonies on this track are well-layered. While the beginning is slow, the duo quickly kicks up the energy for an ending that will have fans on their feet and ready to dance. It’s the perfect opening for an album that represents a new direction for the band.
“Forever Ain’t Long”
Much like track one, “Forever Ain’t Long” keeps the country roots going strong as instrumentals for the backbone to the achingly sad lyrics begging to be returned to a time with a love was new and no one was hurt. “We go right back to that old feelin’/That we want it to be,” sings Ackles and Carlson as they harmonize perfectly on this track. Sadly, forever ain’t as long as they hoped it’d be. This one has the feel of a good, old-fashioned country tune. Heartbreaking lyrics and excellent composition make this one an instant must-listen.
First played at their debut concert in Nashville back in December, “Every Light” instantly became a fan favorite — and for good reason. Staying with the musical theme of the album, the band really leaned into the influence of bluegrass while cultivating this track’s particular sound. Though a seemingly upbeat song on the surface, this song packs a truly devastating emotional punch once you really sit down and absorb/analyze the lyrics.
“Every Light” (like any song) can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Whether you see it as the story of a troubled youth, the tall tale of a modern Bonnie and Clyde, or something completely different, one of the most undeniably prevalent themes pervading it is trying to outrun fate, rewrite your destiny, and take control of your own narrative. This sentiment is demonstrated over and over again by the slightly varying chorus that always ends with the refrain, “I ain’t ready to go.” Many fans of Ackles’ work on Supernatural have already begun to draw very clear parallels between the lyrics and his character Dean’s experience throughout the show. The final verse can’t do anything but inspire emotion with the heartbreaking lyrics, “With everything inside/He stared up to the sky/And searched for any sign of Heaven/With a teardrop in his eye/And whispered/Though you may want me/Though you may want me/Even though you may want me/I ain’t ready to go.”
On an interesting structural note, this album — which showcases many more shared songs rather than individual tracks (unlike the predominant structure of albums past) — features a plethora of songs with Ackles’ higher voice carrying the harmonies while Carlson’s deeper vocals comprise the main melody. This song turns that pattern on its head, with Carlson’s rich tone full of deep notes really rounding the song out. If they didn’t already, fans are sure to mark this track down as a popular favorite.
“Ain’t No Tellin'”
With an opening melody reminiscent of a baptist hymn (and simultaneously bearing a striking similarity to the opening chords from Vol. 1‘s “All Our Own”), “Ain’t No Tellin'” is an instant attention grabber as the speaker grapples with the question of their identity. This is one track that leans more into the influences of soul, rock, and blues — especially with the accompanying ensemble’s choir-like vocals in the background. Radio Company has always done a fantastic job of putting their ensemble musicians’ vast talents on display, and this album has been no different. “Aint No Tellin'” is a great example of this as notes from the horns and organ peek out alongside the amazing guitar solo, lending the song a full, soulful spirit and sound alongside Ackles’ sweet croon.
“You Made Me Blue”
Reminiscent of classic songs like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” “You Made Me Blue” combines lovely lyrics with a soothing melody. It’s an empowering song about moving on and finding yourself after the end of a relationship. While it is simpler in composition than some of the other tracks on this album, that simplicity is part of its charm.
“Keep on Ramblin'”
The titular track of the album, Keep on Ramblin’, perfectly encompasses the overall country/bluegrass feel carried throughout the album. Leaning into Ackles’ crisp vocals and Carlson’s harmonies accented by simple yet perfect instrumental arrangements, this one is an instant country classic I could see dominating the radio waves. The track doesn’t lack in strong lyrical story either, with excellent writing from Ackles and Carlson as they sing of a ramblin’ bandit on the run. A particular favorite moment is the musical shift allowing Ackles’ vocals to really shine during the bridge with “Running headlong in the valley/Toward the hills of San Miguel/Pushing flat out for my freedom/Left ’em all a tale to tell…” Start to finish, this is one song off the album that will be stuck in your head!
“Sweet Escape” is the second track on the album where Carlson takes lead vocals, and Ackles sings harmony, a switch-up that reminds us just how well this duo works together. Carlson’s smooth vocals and Ackles’ higher notes are perfectly accented by the prominent violin moments so reminiscent of classic country music. This is the kind of country song I can picture couples two-stepping to at the local fairgrounds. As a born and raised country girl, this one is going to hold a special place in my heart with its violin solo and thoroughly country roots.
“Return to Me”
The lyrics of “Return to Me” read like poetry. Mournful and full of regret, they tell a story of loss that will likely resonate will fans: “Maybe I deserved it/To be left this way/I’m not sure/How I was so blind/All I know is that if you return it/And kept it here to stay/I’d lose my mind.” This is another song where Ackles and Carlson blend their voices rather than one taking the lead, and it works well.
“Restless Man” is the kind of perfect musical masterpiece that drives home how powerful emotions can be conveyed when vocals and musical arrangements are allowed to build on each other. Beginning with only Ackles’ husky vocals and the piano, the raw emotion in the opening lines are allowed to shine. With each chorus repeat, the song slowly builds by adding first a soulful harmonica and violin, and finally, the drums in the back half of the song. The message of slowing down this restless man is felt like a plea as the song moves from ballad-like to more upbeat.
Lyrically, “Restless Man” is among the strongest on the album, with its clear imagery and emotional impact. “So keep on coming around to comfort me/Oh and find us a place to land/And slow down this restless man.” He may push who he loves away at the start, but he wants them to keep trying, to keep helping. If this doesn’t sum up the human struggle many face in learning to accept love, I don’t know what does.
Keeping with the previous trend of ending the album on a softer song (seen with “Dume” from Vol. 1 and “City Grown Willow” from Vol. 2), this song is the perfect closer. Arguably Carlson’s strongest track to date as lead vocalist, the duo delivers a song that feels like being wrapped in a soft cloud of, well … velvet. While the song depicts an internal conflict of the speaker who is escaping a life full of internal strife and turmoil, the soft melodies and poignant croon of the violin deliver an aura of peace, reflecting that attainment of escaping one’s demons. Radiating a tranquil aura, the twang of the guitar and Carlson’s rich, deep voice accompanied (but not overpowered) by a light blend of Ackles’ mellifluous harmonies feels like coming home with the refrain “But the one thing that I love/velvet skies above an angry sea.”
Keep on Ramblin’ continues to demonstrate Radio Company’s versatility as an artistic group, displaying an enduring ability to pivot in terms of overall sound and thematic messaging. While Vol. 1 felt like a collection of singles, Vol 2. evolved with a comprehensive sound. While Keep on Ramblin’ has gone in a different artistic direction than the previous two albums, the band continues to elevate their work with increasingly complex messages, metaphors, and lyrics. Additionally, the collaborative power of Steve Carlson and Jensen Ackles has never been stronger with a more united tracklist. All of these factors combined signal yet another success for the band.
We can’t wait to see what Radio Company does in the future. In the meantime, be sure to leave your thoughts and analyses of the band’s newest songs in the comments! Keep on Ramblin’ is out now and available for streaming on all major music platforms. Happy listening!