Four years since their debut release, Adrian + Meredith take their fearless, blistering, and Balkan-tinged Americana to new heights on their sophomore record, Bad for Business. Recorded in the living room of their midcentury East Nashville house with friends like Paul Niehaus (Justin Townes Earle, Calexico), saxophonist Ken Francis Wenzel (Carlos Santana, Bobby Parker), and banjo player Fats Kaplan (Jack White), Bad For Business is a raucous, rebellious and home-spun variety show. The record’s intimate connection with the recording space and personnel creates the right conditions for Adrian + Meredith to soar sonically and lyrically, as they consider disillusioning times for the country—and the world.
Off the top, Bad for Business highlights the elements that make Adrian + Meredith’s music truly theirs—and then pushes those talents further. Adrian Krygowski’s gritty vocals, Meredith’s Krygowski’s fiery fiddling, and the band’s distinctive, foot-stomping bounce and sense of eclecticism—all of it has ferocious intentionality. And, from there, the pair get innovative. They use Meredith’s foot percussion on the introduction to “Kids These Days,” they add not one horn but a whole Balkan brass section on “Too Far,” and they give “California,” with its surf-a-billy guitar flourishes, an unexpected indie rock lean. Clearly, Bad for Business goes big, highlighting Adrian + Meredith’s confidence in their vision, as well as the influence of their musical mentors, particularly The Legendary Shackshakers’ JD Wilkes and Mark Robinson, the latter of whom produced and mixed the album.
The lyrical content of Bad for Business is bold too —particularly in its candid exploration of current political issues that have left many artists tight-lipped. “Even” offers unforgiving commentary on the Trump-era political divide and the obsession with getting “even,” which Adrian puts to rest on “Chalk,” just a few tracks later: “The rain falls equally on everyone,” he sings. Similarly, the klezmer-inspired track, “Kids These Days,” dives into the impact of gun violence in American schools, “California” balks at climate change deniers, and even “Valley View,” a lilting folk tune written from the perspective of an immigrant at Ellis Island, asks “Did we forget who we are?” in the face of current anti-immigration attitudes. That said, the vaudevillian-inspired pair go big with quirky lightheartedness, too. Songs like “Too Far,” highlight their sense of humor as they describe a Thanksgiving dinner political discussion gone bad, and a rousing rendition of the 1963 polka-pop hit, “Who Stole the Keishka,” and upbeat tunes like “Hungover Eyes,” balance Bad for Business’s heavier ruminations with rip-roaring fun.
In the end, Bad For Business is the sound of Adrian + Meredith’s front door, left wide open. The listener is drawn inside by the couple’s warmth, intensity and frankness—and in the end, left with a sense of easy joy and friendship they’d all but forgot.