With the future of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame band Heart in doubt, guitarist and singer/songwriter Nancy Wilson isn’t letting any grass grow under her feet.
Wilson teamed up with former Prince and the New Power Generation singer Liv Warfield earlier this year and gathered a few friends to form the band Roadcase Royale. In addition to Wilson and Warfield, the band features another Prince alumni — guitarist Ryan Waters, along with three members of Heart —keyboardist Chris Joyner, bassist and main producer on ‘First Things First,’ Dan Rothchild, and drummer Ben Smith. They released the single “Get Loud” several months back to put the word out while they wrote and recorded a full-length album. The fruition of their work has come to light in Roadcase Royale’s debut full length ‘First Things First’ released on Loud & Proud Records.
The 10-track album is rich in many styles of music including R&B, soul, funk, blues, and good old-fashioned rock & roll. It’s easy to see why Prince had Warfield in his camp because she has a versatile and powerful voice, which soars up and down the vocal scale. Opening track and lead single “Get Loud” is a prime example of her talents, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. “Not Giving Up” draws from Led Zeppelin with its smooth melodies building to the bombastic coda. The song blends seamlessly into the earthy and hopeful “Hold on To My Hand.”
Wilson began writing the song “Cover Each Other” back in the 1990s for Alice in Chains front man Layne Staley, but has now taken on new meaning with the passing of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington. The song, with its Rolling Stones backbeat, is a message of hope and love, a common theme throughout ‘First Things First.’ There are also tracks with emotional political issues, themes including, female empowerment (“Get Loud”), political divisiveness (“Not Giving Up”), and self-determination in the face of aggression (“Insaniac”).
The only downfall of ‘First Things First’ is that Roadcase Royale added two Heart classics—the 1985 ballad “These Dreams,” and the hard-rocking “Even It Up.” Not to say these reworked versions are bad, because they are not, it just would have been nice to hear two more Roadcase Royale originals rather than two Heart songs which have been covered countless times. Truth be told, Roadcase Royale’s ‘First Things First’ is better than anything Heart has done in the last few years. The band and this album are a powerhouse of great rock and soul.