Siblings Justin Mathenia and Amy Snyder were born and raised right along the main artery of America’s heartland — Alton, Ill., to be exact, just above St. Louis, where the country’s two longest rivers, the Missouri and Mississippi, become one. But to them, that’s far more than a spot on the map; it represents a way of life and set of values that form their very identities — and keeps them closely anchored to the Dale, Ill., farmland tilled by their great-great grandfather, where their nearly 90-year-old grandparents still live and work.
That sense of place, forged over generations, flows through the music they make as Hymn River Suite — a convergence of classic and modern country with Southern rock, gospel and other distinctly American influences. On their fine new album, Hundred Proof, releasing Aug. 11, via Sony Music’s CEN/The Orchard, they merge that sound with lyrics conveying intensely personal stories (their own and others), giving us insights into experiences we may have shared — or hope we never will. Experiences from the heartland. And the heart.
The woman who finally figures out her love can’t compete with bottles of booze and pills; the man still longing for the one who got away; the kid who thinks he knows it all at 18, hitting the road to follow his muse; the young wife facing each night alone, worrying about her far-away soldier. Wounded lovers, thwarted dreamers, wayward wanderers, impassioned youth; the hopeful and hopeless. These are the characters populating their songs, driven by desire, coping with circumstance, seeking and settling, and sometimes, accepting, with grace and gratefulness, where they’ve been and where they’re going.
Their histories unfold in 10 powerful tracks emanating from a place where George Strait, Dolly Parton and Miranda Lambert might hang out with Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Band (who get an extra nod via the Hymn River moniker). But punkers MXPX and emo band Braid also figure into the list of artists Mathenia and Snyder cite as inspirations.