Blue Belly Sky 
Artist: The Waiting 
Label: Sparrow Records 
Time 15 tracks, 54:16 

In an apparent attempt to capitalize on the success of 1997's The Waiting, Sparrow has reissued the band's 1995 effort Blue Belly Sky, originally released on REX Music. The new version has been digitally remastered (though this listener can't hear a difference) and features four new tracks and new packaging. 
 
For those unfamilar with The Waiting, the band hails from Atlanta, Georgia and falls generally into the same pop/rock category as fellow Atlantan's Third Day and Smalltown Poets. Fortunately, their sound is also unique enough to separate them from the pack of pop/rockers in the market today, even in a set of songs recorded nearly 5 years ago. 
  
Singer Brad Olsen's vocals are unconventional but pleasant and don't bring to mind any good comparisons. His half-spoken approach is particularly effective on songs like "Look at Me" and "Staring at a Bird." 
 
Lyrically, the band uses some familiar imagery and some catchy phrasings to paint pictures clearly, and in a way that you can sing along to. In "Look at Me," Brad Olsen and brother/guitarist Todd Olsen write:  

    I love the way You look at me, the way You steer Your eyes 
    To see the bride beneath the harlot's skin, the virtue underneath the sin 
    I love the way You look at me, when You lift the veil 
    And You repeat Your vow
Musically, The Waiting utilizes a nice mix of acoustic guitars and jangly electrics on most tracks, with the occasional noisy alterna-guitar thrown in for good measure. There's just a trace of an Irish sound that pops up in the melodies here and there that contributes to the uniqueness of the band's sound. The bulk of the album consists of upbeat, rocky songs, but slower, worshipful songs like "Mercy Seat" and "Is This the Day" provide a bit of variety. The whole album is quite melodic, perfectly suited for singing along with the windows down on a summer drive. 
 
The lyrics and music work together exceptionally well on "Israel." The Olsens write "Call me Israel/Since some years ago, it's been my fate to sail November seas," while the music and Olsen's delivery call to mind a sailor's chantey to produce one of the album's highlights. 
  
The four new tracks are somewhat hit-or-miss; two of the tracks don't add much to the disc, while the other two turn out to be two of the highlights.  All four fit well into the rest of the album stylistically, though they feature somewhat more adventurous guitar sounds than the older tracks. 
 
"Still So Pretty" is a fairly bland "list of city names with a chorus" song. "Nobody's Love" doesn't seem to really take flight, either. The band turns in two great tracks in "I Want You Back" (yes, a cover of the Jackson 5 song) and "Charming One." What sort of message is to be found in "I Want You Back"? Well, not much of one, but it's a fun song and  showcases the sort of fun cover songs that the band includes in their live sets. "Charming One" is an outstanding track, with a bit of an Eastern flavor by way of the Georgia Satellites (co-written by Steve Hindalong, to boot). 
 
For people who already own the original Blue Belly Sky, this reissue is probably not essential but the new tracks are at least worth demoing. For everyone else, I highly recommend this disc, which I personally enjoy more than the band's self-titled followup. This is a strong effort, despite the fact that it comes from early in the band's career. 

By Jerry Ray 
 
 

 

Following the success of their self-titled album, The Waiting's record label have decided that it is time to re-issue this, their previous indie release with a new track order and four new tracks. Production wise I can't really choose between this and The Waiting, although this is slightly rawer. Never having really gotten into that album, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself gradually getting into this one. 

The Waiting's sound takes some southern influences, various folk music influences and some more modern alternative and comes out as a pleasing folky, rootsy pop sound, with some distorted guitar and the odd mandolin thrown in. The lyrics are poetic and full of imagery, although the songs are best considered in their entirety so I won't quote one here. 

I enjoy listening to this album, but I'm still not sure that The Waiting are quite the amazing band their fans suggest. A couple of the tracks here sound a bit similar to each other. The fans will like the album, though, and it's an excellent companion to its predecessor (or follower, depending on your point of view). 

By James Stewart