Personnel: Ilya Toshinskly (acoustic guitar, resonator guitar, banjo); Jerry McPherson (electric guitar); Dann Huff (electric 12-string guitar); Dan Dugmore (steel guitar, dobro); Paul Franklin (steel guitar, sitar); Neil Perry (bouzouki, mandolin); Stuart Duncan (fiddle); Jim Hoke (pennywhistle); Charlie Judge (piano, Hammond b-3 organ, keyboards, synthesizer); Aaron Sterling (drums); David Huff (percussion, programming); Eric Darken (percussion); Cherie Oakley (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Justin Niebank.
Recording information: Blackbird Studios, Nashville, TN; Westlake Recording Studios, West Hollywood, CA.
Photographers: David McClister; Neil Perry; Ben Krebs.
Starting with the threats of "Better Dig Two," there's a swagger that underpins much of Pioneer, the second album from family country-pop trio the Band Perry. This boldness never quite dissipates under the thunderous cloud of big ballads, of which there are many here. Almost all the attitude derives from Kimberly Perry, who retains a sense of palpable defiance even in the quietest moments, her vigor lending passion to music that is deliberately designed to appeal to the widest possible audience as it blurs the line between contemporary country and pop. At times, this desire to be everything to everyone leads to some seriously odd juxtapositions, as on the shred-guitar fireworks of the coda of "Forever Mine Nevermind" -- a grace note Spinal Tap would have been proud to achieve -- and the gurgling talkbox and mandolin war on "I'm a Keeper." These accidental oddities along with Kimberly Perry's fiercely committed vocals give Pioneer a character it otherwise works overtime to avoid and, for as good as the by-the-books ballads and rocking country are, the moments when the façade slips a bit make this worth hearing as an album and not a collection of singles. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine