John Tiller’s Battle Ready is a slow-burning track that sneaks up on you as you listen through. It gently puts a hand on both of your shoulders, looks you in the eyes and suggests that you’d be in error should you ignore it.
Featuring a charming country arrangement that only reveals its full intent as the track progresses, it’s been loved, has Battle Ready.
Starting with a guitar panned hard to one side, and a different stringed instrument I can’t quite place (mini-harp?) being strummed hard and bright in the other ear, Tiller’s breathy, warm and urgent-yet-laid-back vocal talks to us.
There’s a shivering, breathing, ambient sound all over the intro that sounds like some strings being urgently rubbed to build tension. In come the kick and snare in a spartan arrangement that suddenly introduces pulsing, prodding bass, which then goes legato and woozy for the pre-chorus and underpins on long held notes for the chorus.
It’s at this point that subtle slide and high, tinkling piano are introduced and the full warmth of the hypnotic push-me-pull-you rhythm is unveiled. The slide guitar gets more free rein as the track moves along, putting me in mind of the ubiquitous Torn, the most famous version of which was covered by Natalie Imbruglia.
The long held ‘Uuuh’s that Tiller uses on the pre-chorus are surprisingly emotive and meaningful despite not being allocated a word! But soon we learn that the character has ‘Got a history that I can not escape’, and we understand there’s a dark narrative lurking behind the beauty of the arrangement.
Tuneful and tastefully produced, that all makes it classic country, in a nutshell!