The marriage vow, ‘for better or worse,’ likely has special meaning for the Oklahoma-based husband and wife duo, The Imaginaries. For most of the last year and a half, Maggie McClure and Shane Henry have struggled through the ‘worse,’ facing medical setbacks and tour cancelations (even before the mass COVID live music pause), which led to unexpected financial burdens and ultimately a lengthy delay in releasing their album. The details of their personal and professional struggles were recently laid out well by the Oklahoma City Free Press. However, the ‘better’ is on the horizon for the duo as the world starts to reopen and the band celebrates the release of their self-titled LP today through ONErpm.
The album is a mix of dramatic folk-rock anthems, tender ballads, and sunny acoustic folk melodies. A great example of the balance on The Imaginaries is in the record’s first three tracks. It starts with a lush, one-two punch of singles, “Revival” and “Walking on a Wire,” and quickly follows with the gentler, “Thinking ‘Bout You.” “Revival” is a surefire attention-getter, moving from the string-bending opening guitar notes paired with McClure’s beckoning vocals to a foot-stomping, soul infused, blues rocker.
“Walking on A Wire” gets its power from the pair’s woven vocals. The ripples of electric guitar wail, urgent acoustic guitar, and a big drumbeat are bold, yet smartly produced so they don’t overrun the duo’s yearning words. “Thinking ‘Bout You” puts a pause on the dramatic vibes and gives us a jaunty toe-tapper where acoustic guitar is front and center.
While it’s hard to match that opening combination, The Imaginaries has plenty of tracks to keep you listening for the whole album. Those of you who like a lot of rock in their folk-rock won’t want to miss the raucous track, “Enough of You.” The song is loaded with a driving, head nodding beat and even a screaming electric guitar solo. Album closer, “You Remind Me,” is a straight up country ballad, featuring a swing quality in its rhythm and light gospel influences in McClure’s vocals.
Across all the tracks, what stands out about the Imaginaries is their pure chemistry. There are plenty of other duos and collaborations to listen to, but the bond between McClure and Henry creates an intimate flow that’s often missing. It feels like they are finishing each other’s thoughts rather than simply exchanging lines in a recording studio.
More than a year and a half later than expected, the Imaginaries are finally getting to share their completed album. There’s some unmissable irony in the fact that the record, mostly recorded prior to the delay, is loaded with optimistic lyrics about overcoming obstacles and brighter futures. However, maybe having that mindset from the beginning is what allowed the duo to persevere. Many of the songs, after all, are the perfect anthems to make you feel strong on dark days and remember that the ‘better’ is just around the corner.
Featured image and album art photos by Reagan Elkins