It was only a matter of time before the success of groups like Little Big Town and Lady Antebellum brought like-minded imitators out of the woodwork and onto the radio. Labeling The Railers as an imitator, however, seems unfair when they actually sound better than their predecessors.
The Railers consist of a trio of Lawsons (Jordan, Jonathan, and Cassandra, although only the first two are from the same family) that signed with Warner Bros. Records back in 2012, but have only a single EP and a 2014 #49 single to show for it thus far. “11:59 (Central Standard Time)” appears to be the leadoff single for the group’s next project (whether that project is another EP or a full LP is unclear), and appears to follow the classic LBT/LA template for a catchy, uptempo single.
Production-wise, the song is in intriguing blend of seemingly-contradictory sounds, all wrapped in a bright, energetic package. Both real and synthetic percussion are used to drive the beat, and the melody seems to be passed back and forth between a piano and electric guitar, with a organ providing some background tones and a few hot mandolin licks added for flavor. (Seriously, this song is the funkiest I’ve heard a mandolin sound in a long time.) While the mix is a bit quiet and often overwhelmed by the vocals, its succeeds in setting a happy, playful tone that meshes well with the track’s subject matter.
As for the subject matter…well, this is a “feel good, party hardy” kind of song, and is completely unashamed by this. While party anthems were done to death during the Bro-Country era and have fallen out of favor in recent times, “11:59” rises above those oft-critiqued tracks by focusing squarely on the moment and not the potentially-creepy intentions of the guests. No one’s commenting on the physical beauty of other guests, no one’s dropping cheesy pickup lines, no one’s trying to take anyone home—in fact, the goal of the partygoers is to stay as long as possible! The narrator is simply declaring that they’re happy to be hanging out with all their friends, and a silly little thing like time isn’t going to slow them down. This song is the rare party anthem that you can listen to and enjoy completely guilt-free, without wondering about what might happen when the party’s over.
While I don’t know which Lawson is actually the lead singer, whoever it is has a decent delivery with good tone and range (even on the one falsetto note) that reminds me quite a bit of Zac Brown. As a group, though, The Railers showcase some decent harmony reminiscent of Lady Antebellum (I get a strong Hillary Scott vibe from Cassandra Lawson). Most importantly, the trio not only sounds good, but they sound like they’re having a blast singing and playing the song, which lends the track authenticity and makes it more enjoyable to the listener.
Overall, “11:59 (Central Standard Time)” is a strong debut from a group I didn’t know existed before they popped up in Country Aircheck. The major question, of course, is whether radio will support another group in the Little Big Town/Lady Antebellum lane when those two are still established hitmakers. With quality releases like this one, however, I think country radio and its listeners will be happy to let this trio into the party, no matter what time it is.
Rating: 7/10. Do yourself a favor and check this one out.