Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Love and Theft is a bit different from the group that scored a Top-10 hit two years ago with "Runaway." But the changes that have affected the group - most notably, signing with RCA Records and downsizing to a duo - have actually brought Love and Theft closer to what it originally set out to be: a band that writes, records and performs honest, soulful country music. While Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson are proud of their successful first effort, they admit it wasn't the genuine sound they were hoping for - a tone they ultimately discovered when they recently returned to the studio under producer Josh Leo (Alabama, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band).
Billboard (p.52) - "[A]n impressive new collection of songs....What's most intriguing here are the ballads."
Personnel: Josh Leo (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap steel guitar); Ilya Toshinskiy (acoustic guitar, mandolin); Tom Bukovac (electric guitar); Smith Curry (steel guitar, lap steel guitar, dobro); Dan Dugmore (steel guitar); Larry Franklin (fiddle); John Catchings (cello); Tony Harrell (strings, keyboards); Nir Z., Shannon Forrest (drums); Eric Darken (percussion).
Audio Mixer: Ben Fowler.
Recording information: Blackbird Studios; Blue Cow; Ocean Way, Nashville, TN.
Photographer: Jeff Lipski.
Three years after their 2009 debut World Wide Open, Love and Theft is now a duo of Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, having lost Brian Bandas sometime in 2011. The departure of Bandas -- who was placed prominently on the cover of World Wide Open, giving the impression that Liles and Gunderson are stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight -- doesn't markedly change the sound of the group, who still specialize in sweet, soft country-pop. Unlike Rascal Flatts -- an early and not inaccurate comparison and not just because they used to share a label, Lyric Street -- Love and Theft never aim for arena bombast, not even when they try to rock & roll a little on "Girls Love to Shake It." They keep things crisp and clean, even finding a way to work in a whistling hook on "Inside Out," one of the sprightlier tunes here, and that cheerful, well-scrubbed persona is endearing even if it's never quite compelling. Then again, Love and Theft never attempt to be gripping: they rely on easy charm, slowly working their way into a listener's good graces, and this eponymous album functions similarly, seeming pleasant enough on first encounter, but with repeated exposure, all the amiability is ingratiating. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine