Album Review – Wayd Battle’s “Powerless”

“Battle” is about the perfect last name for Wayd. Eternally situated between sin and redemption, rich and poor, sauced and sober, successful and forgotten, this is where you’ll find Wayd’s soul and songs, with these weighty forces constantly fighting for supremacy, and Wayd stuck right in the middle narrating it all in moving moments perfectly suitable for country music with an emphasis on rich songwriting.

Maybe you’ve seen the name before drifting here and there in the liner notes of Jamey Johnson or Jerrod Niemann records, or heard him on stage with these men and others playing guitar. Or maybe you haven’t. As someone that has made a living standing just outside the spotlight, if nothing else, Wayd Battle has earned the respect of many of those that stand in it. When you have award-winning artists primarily known for songwriting like Jamey Johnson, Adam Hood, and others selecting you as a co-writer, you know you stand the test.

For years, the left-handed Tuscaloosa native has been laboring away as a writer for BMG Nashville and a side player hustling on the stage, or maybe fronting his own band upon occasion. But his new album Powerless finds the attention squarely on him, and it’s well-earned from the assemblage of strong songs he compiles that for some other writers and singers would be as loaded as their Greatest Hits collection.

Making reference to the push and pull of forces beyond his control, Powerless captures a songwriter and performer you’re frankly shocked we haven’t heard more from over the years. A perfectly worn and weathered voice for country, but confident in its delivery, and songs that take nothing off the edge, it’s right up the alley for fans of hard country in a traditional style. Battle leaves you no opportunities to come up for air. There’s no light and winsome ditties, or attempts at humor. Mercilessly, it goes to work on your emotional armor and prevails in 13 songs, 12 of which are self-penned.

And Wayd Battle doesn’t waste a whole lot of effort on instrumental breaks or fancy production. The songs and his voice are the centerpiece in tracks that usually last no more than three minutes, and leave you emotionally spent and reflective. One could say this renders Powerless less accessible to a general audience. But for those who’ve built up a heavy tolerance from listening to hard-hitting country heartbreakers, this record contains those potent shots to push past your limit so you can feel them once again.

It’s fair to point out that Powerless is hindered somewhat by what sounds to be mastering issues. As you listen through, the volumes and production style sometimes changes abruptly, like the album may have been a compilation of various sessions years apart or EPs smashed together. But this slight distraction doesn’t keep you from the power of the individual songs or performances. This is the only active album out there you can find from Wayd Battle, but he did release a now out-of-print debut in 2000.

With a life’s full of inspiration and perseverance to compile a healthy catalog of songs, Wayd Battle puts a record together in Powerless that makes for a powerful testament to his talent for true country music, and a moment where this lifer of side gigs and songwriting sessions gets his own deserved opportunity as the center of attention.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)

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