Originally created with the intent to raise awareness about mental clarity and substance abuse, Athens, GA based project, Nocturnal Blonde, stemmed from guitarist and vocalist, Ritchie Williams and his personal relation to the threads of substance abuse whereas Williams’ brother, David Williams, acquired neurological damage from an incidental overdose in 2017. Before his mental complications occurred, they both co-wrote the majority of tracks on Smart Heart. R. Williams enlisted Kevin Sims (bassist), James Owen (percussionist), and eventually the “missing ingredient,” vocalist Rachel Grace in the final delivery of the EP. Smart Heart not only rings of a tribute to David Williams, but of truth heard on both sides of the coin of abuse, in a cathartic display of love and hope.
The EP’s leading track “Smart Heart” is a delicate introduction of vocal harmonizing, sweet chimes, and tender longing conveyed by Grace’s vocals. The track stands on its own and is designed in such a minimalist fashion, its focus are on the haunting lyrics that are unraveled. “You pray that I won’t push you away / Now, listen to my heart” are bitter-sweetly sung. Duality of Williams’ and Grace’s vocals swing from polar opposites on the spectrum, breathing freshness into the track’s lyrical change and struggle, “I don’t want to push you away. ” The EP’s next high point would be “Blown Away,” which comes across as an almost cryptic messaging, tangled in the plucks of the guitar. “A little bad luck can go a long way,” wraps the hook in a contemplative state of mind, aided by the low purr of heavy toms by the likes of Owen, while Grace owns the heart of the track.
With such a heavy past, the EP wouldn’t be complete without heartfelt ballads. “Two Trees” seems to be written as a post incidental track, solely based on the track’s somber tone and heed of the portrayal of a family tree and the roots that may run deep. While “All Those Angels” strums sweetly, slowly and into a country aroma. Only rounding up a minute, the track’s short life seems to speak heavily on the mindset of after, and is reminiscent to the value of time slipping rapidly.
Another gem on the EP would be the track “Drained.” It leans more on the alternative rock side that highlights the emotive vocal range of Grace in a folk-esque skin. Ghostly and possessing potent guitar peaks, “Drained” plays on a beautiful construction and equally charming delivery. Paired with the raw truth of awareness by Williams, to the sharp tone by Grace, Smart Heart is a promising introduction to Nocturnal Blonde.