The title of Boston Music Award-winning Will Dailey’s latest release, National Throatcomes from a John Philip Sousa quote that worries for the fate of music. In his essay, the famous American composer feared that music would lose its passion in the face of technology and commercialism.

Interestingly, the story behind the album fits nicely with Sousa’s essay. In an effort to free himself from the constraints of commercialism, Dailey left one of the nation’s largest labels to release the record independently. And, with nothing left to interfere with the music, the passion in the album speaks loud and clear; even the album’s weakest tracks are overflowing with energy. This liveliness combined with solid songwriting makes for a very good pop-rock album.

But a “very good pop-rock album” is all that National Throat is. There are moments when, if Dailey had pushed the limits of pop music, the album could have reached greater heights.

Dailey’s feelings about splitting from his label are deeply interwoven into the lyrics of National Throat. Bluesy lead single “Sunken Ship” metaphorically tells of the departure atop a reggae-influenced beat, with Dailey declaring that he is “jumping overboard” to leave those “covered in a treasure no one wants.” His clear, genuine voice drives the infectious chorus, avoiding the tendency of other singers of the genre to add a Southern twang to their voices. Dailey sings like a more relatable, rocking version of British band Take That’s Mark Owen. (“Once in a Century Storm” sounds like it could have come from The Circus.)

Leaping between genres, National Throat is an interesting yet cohesive whole. Styles vary from Black Keys-reminiscent blues rock on standout tracks like “Don’t Take Your Eyes Off Me” and “Lookout Johnny,” to pop ballads like “Rescue” and “Stand Where I Can See You,” to the fun, finger-snapping, horn-driven “Why Do I.” However, while the slow, folksy “Higher Education” is pretty, it lets Dailey fall into the monolithic monotony of folk-pop bands like The Lumineers and their ever-present ilk.

The album’s highest point comes (perhaps too soon) during second track “World Go Round,” which tosses aside Dailey’s strong pop sensibilities in favor of wild rock. His wail during the chorus induces a craving for a less restrained and more experimental Dailey in the tracks that follow, but this craving is never quite fulfilled. There’s a lot of potential trapped behind the walls of these pop songs that we can only hope to see from Dailey in the future.

The album ends with “We Will Always Be a Band,” which promises exactly what its title suggests: a cheesy, foot-stomping sing-along. Corniness aside, though, you can feel the sincerity. Dailey means what he says on every track, and that’s what makes National Throat strong. It may be poppy and incredibly catchy, but it does not feel feigned or overly commercial. Sousa asks, “What of the national throat? Will it not weaken?” Dailey’s response is firm: It’s doing just fine.

Album Review: Will Dailey - National Throat
  • Solid songwriting
  • Diverse collection of styles
  • Great vocals
  • Often formulaically poppy
  • Dailey could have experimented more
7.5Overall Score

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