For his third album, Heroes And Demons, singer-songwriter Vincent Poag continues where he left off on 2014's excellent For The Girls. Not one to be tied to any particular style, Poag mixes pop with touches of rock, blues, jazz and county to great effect. Poag's gritty voice at times recalls Mark Knopfler or Tom Waits, but is never derivative. The weariness of his vocals give his lyrics, which often find him ruminating about everyday life, an everyman feel and give weight to the tracks.
The album opens with the bouncy pop of "Beautiful Day." Here Poag channels his inner Paul McCartney over clean rhythm guitars that build with intensity throughout. A strong opener, the track starts off the proceedings on a positive note. Continuing the Beatles trend, the strong "You Love Me" recalls mid-1970s John Lennon with its 1950s style chord changes and horn section. In both cases, the songs feel inspired by, rather than copies of the original.
"Piper Play" opens with flutes, ukulele and acoustic guitar. The song, which also features accordion, has Irish folk overtones and showcases Poag's knack for simple, pretty melodies. It's not all delicate pop however, "Young Again" has jangly guitars and power chords that recall Tom Petty at his best and shows that in addition to being whimsical, Poag can rock out pretty hard too.
Diana Hope takes lead vocals on "Here I Am," a pretty piano ballad with strong lyrics about being there for the ones you love. For his part, Poag offers "Daisy," a delicate love song with poignant lyrics and sparse acoustic guitar. Poag's ability to tug at the listener's heartstrings cannot be overstated and this is where he really shines.
The album closes with the striking "And The Ocean Rolls." From the opening military-style drums to the trumpets to the chants and powerful chorus to the strong lead vocal, the song delivers on all Poag's strengths. The song has an almost world music feel in points and would not seem out of place on a Peter Gabriel record.
On this, his third album, Poag has delivered another winner. Heroes And Demons mixes elements of pop, rock, blues, jazz and country in a way that at once sounds familiar while pushing forward artistically at the same time. Poag's influences may at times seem obvious, but he uses them as a starting point, not as a crutch. Well worth a listen.