is the brainchild of Poco bassist/vocalist Jack Sundrud and Nashville
songwriting veteran Craig Bickhardt. Together they create music equally
informed by mainstream and alternative country, Triple A and Americana
music. Their lyrics and harmonies are tempered with bluegrass, Country,
folk and a dash of Southern California Country-Rock.
A two-lane highway can unfold like a book of stories as the miles flash
by. Idlewheel's music has the same sense of discovery to it - carried
along by its easy-flowing rhythms are flashes of personal revelation and
homespun irony, speeding past you like an oddly familiar (or familiarly
odd) small town.
Craig Bickhardt and Jack Sundrud do it all with a wry nonchalance
that belies their uncommon
craftsmanship...these guys know the high road of country-rock better than
most. Their credits are solid and sterling - Bickhardt was a member of
renowned Nashville group SKB, while Sundrud enjoyed success with Great
Plains and (most recently) Poco. But really, Idlewheel isn’t a spin-off
(no pun intended) of these bands. It's more the product of afternoons
spent swapping stories and woodshedding songs, of testing each others
creative limits in defiance of Nashville’s prevailing conservatism.
The creative sparks that flew between Craig and Jack during their writing
sessions glow brightly here. The two of them have a knack for unreeling
vignettes and painting miniatures within a pop song structure, displaying
a keen eye for the telling lyric detail. Tunes like Sweet Sadness and When
I Tell You I Love You have the acute veracity of life lived, not imagined
for radio consumption. Their collective viewpoint is tempered with a sharp
edge - Mona Lisa’s Frown, for one, is surely one of the great put-down
songs of our era. They combine intimacy and grandeur in I'd Move Heaven
and Earth...and with Invisible Hope, they achieve a moral subtlety worthy
of Sherwood Anderson or Raymond Carver.
These incisive lyrics are framed by a stripped-down production approach,
rendered with snap and bite. The duos' vocals have a rough-hewn,
unvarnished quality - with Jack's emotive higher-end tenor and Craig's
evocative lower-range vocals balancing nicely. The sound conjures memories
of the feisty, unfettered spirit of early Southern California
country-rock, with a dash of the Everly Brothers thrown in.
As noted above, Idlewheel is perfect for a journey into the heartland. But
you don’t need to hit the road to let their music take you places. This
anthology of celebratory and bittersweet songs is all that’s required.