“Meet You in the Morning” co-produced by The Shiz and TJ Barends (Bare Sounds Productions at Sir-Reel Studios, Hammond, LA) is an ambitious 70 minute 14 song opus with a wide ebb and flow reminiscent of Tom Petty (one of the band’s most obvious heroes) from his “Wildflower” days. Singles include “Juggernaut,” “Driftin’, ” and “For the People” from Hogan, and “New Jim Crow” and “Sleep Baby, Slumber” from Lewis. But as with any album conceived project, the songs, diverse as they are, belong to each other, and are held together by the quartet’s “electric chamber music” approach and Barends’ roots based sensibilities, yielding a youthful, transparent authenticity to the relatively mature and nuanced collection. Challenging industry and ideology from the BP Oil Spill to the prison industrial complex, the themes are both topical and existential in nature, and rely on their southern/bluesy roots to keep the much of the most weighted material in a context of light touch confrontation. A notable exception to this, however, is the 7 minute tone poem “Boxcar,” a song written by Lewis and Hogan after experiencing an exhibit of the same name at a Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, FL in 2012.
The deluxe edition of the recording, only available for download at theshiz.bandcamp.com, includes a studio outtake of “Broken Wings, ” the only original love song in the band’s repertoire to date. When asked about the glaring the absence love-based themes in their writing, Lewis mentions that so many of the love songs she knows “don’t seem to be about love of the requited variety.” She says sometimes their most political action is “just showing up as themselves” as they’re Uncle Sam had once put it, and since she and Hogan are currently lucky enough to enjoy a relationship that actually works, they are free to use their music to work on other ideas like personal sovereignty and redemption.
The album features a number of worthy collaborations, most notable are the contributions of violinist Andrew Robin and guitarist Owen Scott, III. Owen Scott, a friend and former band mate of the late B52′s founding member Ricky Wilson, is a fellow Athens, GA native who left the city the same year Lewis was born. Lewis recruited Scott after a coincidental meeting in Baton Rouge, LA, just as the band was going into pre-production on the new album. Owen is featured on “New Jim Crow” and “For the People,” along with the decidedly Athens / REM influenced “The Rapture.”