To the Roof of the Sky  
Artist: Vigilantes of Love  
Label: Meat Market Records  
Time: 15 tracks/66:32  

To the Roof of the Sky is Bill Mallonee and company's middle of the road musical memoirs and features a more acquired alt-country taste with less feisty fare than their previous three albums.  If you're looking for loads of rowdy songs like "Undertow," "Resume," "Five Miles South of Monroe," or "Locust Years" you won't find as many of Ďem.  Instead, what you'll get is a panoply of accessible, superior songwriting featuring a kinder and gentler Vigilantes. There are a few straight-ahead rockers here, but the overall emphasis is steered toward songs closer in spirit and sound to "River of Love," "Skin," "Hang on Every Word," "Only a Scratch" and "Glory & the Dream."  You get the idea.  The mix of melodic guitar, mandolin, pedal-steel, and harmonica harkens back to an older Vigilantes style, yet this is by no means Killing Floor revisited, but a new, fresh chapter.  

Finally free of label restrictions, To the Roof of the Sky is closer to what Bill has wanted to release for awhile, an album that is even more introspective lyrically, yet less rocking as a whole.  Some will lament the loss of the folk/blues-on-speed sound that V.O.L. is also known for, while others will embrace these congenial tunes of faith, hope, and love in the midst of doubt and depression.  One irrefutable fact remains:  Bill Mallonee is one of the very best American lyric-writers alive today.  His penchant for image-laden poetic phrases is intact, naturally or perhaps supernaturally. Give this one some time.  It's a grower.  

By my reckoning:  four rockers, five ballads, six M.O.R.s (in the middle), gobs of great poetry, and four tocks worth of solid musical enjoyment.  

By Steven Stuart Baldwin      
  
  

  

Within two minutes of my first Vigilantes of Love live show ending, I had run across the field and bought an album. Bill Mallonee's passionate music and incisive lyrics won me over instantly, and I wanted to hold something of this with me when the festival was over.  

It's a couple of albums later, and my enthusiasm hasn't waned. The band has now gone indie, cutting all ties with old record labels and management in an effort to re-establish themselves. And they've added a fourth member--Kenny Hutson--on second guitar, pedal steel, lap steel and mandolin.  He brings more texture to the arrangements, and helps the band refer back to the more rootsy sound of Killing Floor, while building in influences from the alterna-country movement.  

Musically, this album has some rough edges, but in some ways gains from them--this is a band that is meant to sound raw. In a few places Mallonee's vocals are a little awkward, but most of the time they're the impassioned and individual vocals that we have come to expect. The title track features some spine-tingling pedal steel, and "The Opposite's True" must be a favorite live; it sounds like a crowd pleaser that'd have them up and dancing.  

The introduction to "Perishable Goods" almost sounds like something from Sixpence None the Richer's This Beautiful Mess. The one thing the album is missing is some all-out rockers. The first track, "But Not for Long,"  has the makings of this, but isn't quite tight enough to fully take advantage of that direction.  

Sometimes the songs are a little long, the extra repetition of the title crops up a few times too many, and fans of concept albums may miss the themes that have sometimes been found in Vigilantes of Love albums. It is obvious, though, that the band has relished the opportunity to record the album they wanted to, and this is a fine addition to the collection.  

By James Stewart   

  

 
 

    Sooner or later, we all do what we must, 
    Sooner or later, it comes down to trust. . . 
    Sooner or later, we all become what we chose, 
    Sooner or later, truth be told. 
    (From "Paralyzed")
Life is difficult, but as the Vigilantes of Love conclude repeatedly on one of their most balanced, best produced projects to date, survivable. To the Roof of the Sky was written by a mature, balanced grownup wise in life struggles, but ready to appreciate even the smallest blessings, and ready to accept whatever comes his way with good humor and grace. A career of truth telling propelled by some force he can only partially explain has created a Bill Mallonee no record company will touch, and no listener ever touched by VoLís art can every forget.  As a late-comer to VoL fandom, I find this his most listenable project yet. The addition of Kenny Hutsonís versatile talents has transformed a raw, awkward trio into a much pleasanter listening experience. 

By Linda T. Stonehocker 9/2/98 

 

To order send $17 in check or money order made out 
to "Vigilantes of Love," to this address: 

     Vigilantes of Love 
     P.O. Box 48094 
     Athens, GA 30604-8094