With the advent of the digital age, sorting through the vast world of music is easier than ever before. We no longer live in an age where we have to wait for our local radio station to play our favorite song. We can here it anytime we want to on our phones, computers, tablets or whatever the hell else there is out there. For a music fan of any genre, being able to sort through, discover, and listen to any artist we want to is one of the best problems we could have, even if we never get to hear all we want to.
But what’s that old saying again? One man’s trash is another man’s treasure? While not directly applicable here, it’s true that consumers having unlimited access to thousands upon thousands of artists makes it harder for the artists themselves to capture one’s attention. It’s hard enough even when you’re backed by a major label, but to do it all independently with no manager, agent, or label? Good luck my friend.
Justin Wells certainly lets his demons out on his brand new solo album Dawn In The Distance, but he also celebrates the achievements that his band and himself made in their day in addition to looking ahead to the future. It’s not necessarily a concept album, but Dawn In The Distance certainly sees its fair share of songs tying around the theme of loneliness, fitting seeing as how Justin is flying solo now. In many ways it’s the kind of cathartic record that I’m sure Justin needed to make. The best type of music is always the kind that comes straight from the heart and that’s exactly why Dawn In The Distance is a top notch album.
While much of the album revolves around Fifth On The Floor’s breakup, Justin never once points blame at anybody. It’s more just him letting it all out, unafraid to show his frustration. So much has already been said about the song “The Dogs”, and it deserves every bit of acclaim it’s gotten thus far. It’s got some brutally honest (and excellent) songwriting that paints itself as one of 2016’s best songs thus far, showcasing the frustration behind the band’s breakup but also acknowledging that it’s just what happens sometimes.
A song like “The Dogs” goes further to show how much this album can blow you away at times. “Still No Rain” doesn’t directly tie in with the theme of personal events in Justin’s life, but with its theme of needing that one break in life to help life move along smoothly, it’s easy to see where it fits on the album. The same can be said for tracks like “So Far Away” and “Another Night Lonely”, which as you guess it, are lonely. They’re full of demons and heartache, and they’re laid out on the line here.
Of course, as I said before, this album isn’t meant to dwell on the past or become frustrated with life. “Been A Long Time” is classic country as it comes and also finds Justin looking forward to being able to spend more time with his family, digging up a positive and not taking it for granted. “Little Darlins” feels like a continuation of that theme, finding Justin happy to be able to be with his kids and once again acknowledge the good in his life. Sure, “Three Quarters Gone” undoubtedly fits more on the sad side of this album than the happy side, but it also finds Justin coming to terms with reality during the chorus, and also goes to further showcase a sense of not willing to give up. “The Highway Less Taken” and album highlight “Going Down Grinnin’” also carry on Justin’s dogged personality, showing that while Fifth On The Floor may be done, Justin’s certainly not giving up music, and that’s all the more reason for us to be happy as music fans.
Dawn In The Distance is certainly a strong album, and while the first half may showcase Justin’s strengths more than the second half overall, it’s a project that Justin obviously needed to make. If I’m going to nitpick, certain tracks such as “Can’t Break My Heart” and “Another Night Lonely” don’t differ from stronger songs with the same respective themes like “Going Down Grinnin’” and “So Far Away”, but there’s certainly not an outright bad song here even if Justin’s gravely vocal tone can sometimes take warming up to.
Nobody can predict the future, and nobody can say for sure if this album will capture the acclaim that it rightfully deserves, just as nobody could tell what was going to happen with Fifth On The Floor back in the day. We live in the present, and at this time I can definitely say that those who haven’t heard Dawn In The Distance are missing out. The end of this summer has certainly brought us a plethora of strong albums, and while Fifth On The Floor may be no more, I’m certainly excited to see where Justin Wells goes from here.
Best Tracks: “The Dogs”, “Going Down Grinnin'”, “Three Quarters Gone”