SINGLE REVIEW: Wasting Time by Ray Ryder

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https://www.rayryder.com.au

Ray Ryder is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist hailing from Australia and his music is in the country rock/pop category. Having studied music from a young age he eventually founded the group One Step Ahead who played with Sting, Chris Isaak and Bryan Ferry, amongst others. In 2016, he released his eponymous debut album which he wrote, performed and produced himself. This led to developing a large fan base. In 2017, he played the world’s biggest remote festival, the Birdsville Big Bash and has since visited Nashville to perform a series of showcases.

This song, Wasting Time, is his latest single and it’s an infectious and upbeat country rock track. Starting with a meaty drum beat and subtle but catchy guitar riff, Ray’s authentic and earthy lead vocals then become the focal point. After a succinct first verse it breaks out into a memorable chorus with reflective lyrics about learning lessons and finding the right path in life: “I’m a long way from where I’ve been, I’m not sure what’s wrong or right….if the point of living is not to fall on the way then I’ve been wasting time….”.

After the second chorus the song leads into a half-time section that provides nice rhythmic variety and features some rich organ. After breaking down for the third chorus it builds up to a concise and effective guitar solo that gives an extra musical lift to the track before driving home the last choruses to complete a perfectly arranged three minute song.

Overall, this is an impressive new release from Ray Ryder that has the authenticity and deep lyrics of country rock but with a modern pop production style that extends its commercial appeal even further. This song will be a sure fire hit with his present fan base but his potential to reach a massive worldwide audience is certainly very  strong. Hopefully, Wasting Time will be another important step towards that goal.

 

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: Bare by Luci

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https://www.facebook.com/LaVidaLuci/

Luci is a singer and songwriter born in Lima, Peru but grew up in the Midwest and South of the United States. She learnt piano and flute in her youth and went on to study music production while at college. This eventually led to the release of her debut EP Live It Up in 2010.

Her music is a blend of modern pop and RnB infused with the influence of Latin styles and she regards her influences as Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and Shakira amongst others. This album, Bare, sees her return to the pop scene and it consists of eleven tracks. The album is a mixture of pop and the more Latin influenced tracks that show her Peruvian heritage.

The album gets off to a strong start with the sassy pop of New Normal. It showcases Luci’s powerful voice which brings to mind Christina Aguilera, not just in its power but also her huge vocal range. Lyrically, it is about her own life’s journey and her return to music, captured by the opening line “I’ve got the new vision of a warrior”.

The following Boss Bitches is just as strong, a Latin-inflected RnB track. Lyrically it’s an empowering feminist anthem which will be particularly popular with her female audience. Luci gives a fantastic vocal performance and this is surely a contender as a single.

Free The Wildings is another super catchy pop/RnB with an irresistible hook while Oyeme shows a gentler side, a poignant piano-led ballad with an affecting and emotive lead vocal performance once again.

The Latin American influence really shines through on the Shakira-esque Marialucia (her full first name). With its incredibly funky and danceable sound this is a potential Hips Don’t Lie-style worldwide hit!

Culebra is another track sung in both Spanish and English, and it’s another infectious piece of Latin pop, this one with a more languid, laid back rhythm and tempo. Luci turns up the heat with the super sensual Savage, an X-rated lyric set to a slinky groove. It’s a fine track which shows her earthy, sexual side.

The following F***** Up is also X-rated due to its title but is lyrically more of a plea for love and validation. Hold My Breath is so languid it’s mesmerising and yet comes from a similarly troubled place emotionally. Luci’s artistic honesty and openness is one of her strongest qualities.

Can’t Stop Us is a return to the ultra positive and empowering vibe of earlier tracks and is musically quite different, a dubstep-infused RnB track with a killer hook. The final track Needs is another of her steamy, explicit songs, this one a very sexy slice of RnB designed to get hips grinding on the dance floor. It’s a fantastic way to finish, bringing to mind the smash hit Dirrty by Christina Aguilera and perhaps this track can follow suit.

Overall, this is a first class modern pop album full of musical variety. Luci is an intoxicating mixture of globe-conquering pop stars like Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera and Shakira and has several potential hits on her hands. With international appeal, along with a fabulous voice and image, there’s nothing to stop her emulating the success of all her musical heroines.

 

VERDICT = 9 out of 10       

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Ghost by Rob Georg

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Rob Georg is a country singer and songwriter originally hailing from Tuebingen in Germany. He became interested in music as a child, taking up the piano and then switching to guitar. He bought his first guitar at just 14 and this led to writing his own material. In 2018, he released his first official song Push That Horn and in December of that year came his first full band release, This Ain’t My First Rodeo. That song made it into the US National Radio Hits AC Charts Top Ten.

This track, Ghost, is a mid paced country rock ballad that showcases his very fine abilities as both a singer and songwriter. It’s a haunting song about not being able to move on from a relationship, something nearly everyone will be able to relate to. It begins with a strident beat and subtle strains of steel guitar before Rob’s powerful and distinctive voice enters.

He gives a compelling lead vocal performance full of emotion and nuance, yet still perfectly controlled. The first verse finds him reflecting on his lost relationship after a sleepless night, his sorrow captured in lines like, “I tried to bury the bones of all the memories you left behind.

It builds to a memorable chorus augmented by subtle but effective harmonies and the songs theme is captured succinctly by the last line: “Guess I’ll spend the rest of my life being haunted by your ghost”. After the second chorus we hear a finely crafted and understated guitar solo which leads to the poignant and moving final breakdown chorus as he resigns himself to his fate.

Overall, this is a very well written and performed country rock ballad that packs an emotional punch. Rob Georg captures the turmoil of heartbreak and regret in his poetic lyrics, conveyed with depth by his emotive vocal style. Even more importantly, the song’s main melody is highly memorable. With pristine production and a radio friendly sound, Ghost has the makings of a huge hit and should make him many new fans.

 

VERDICT= 9 out of 10 

Alex Faulkner

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E.P. REVIEW: Coming Back Stronger by Patrick Carpenter

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Official website HERE

Patrick Carpenter is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Jackson, Mississippi. He started out in music by wanting to emulate his guitar playing heroes such as Richie Sambora, Eddie Van Halen and Brad Paisley, picking up the guitar himself at just eleven. He has since developed into a singer/songwriter and launched himself as a solo artist in 2018. His music is essentially a combination of traditional country, mainstream pop, blues and 80’s-style arena-rock as personified by bands like Bon Jovi.

This EP, Coming Back Stronger, consists of six tracks and has already reached #13 in the ITunes chart, which is truly impressive for a debut release. It begins with the title track, an instantly memorable and enjoyable country rock track with an 80’s-esque stadium-rock drum sound.

Patrick is gifted with a strong and recognizable voice that’s easy on the ear and perfectly suited to the material. Featuring an anthemic chorus augmented by fine backing harmonies, it’s an uplifting song about fighting back against adversity. Towards the end, we get to hear his superb lead guitar skills which finishes off an excellent track nicely.

Second track Chance on Me is a more sensitive side to his songwriting, an epic six-minute country rock ballad in 6/8. It works as a showcase for his first rate lead vocals and musically, it’s enriched by warm organ and tasteful, controlled bursts of lead guitar, although he does allow himself to let rip a little towards the end. I Wish She Knew is another fine ballad based on a musical bedrock of piano and strummed acoustic guitar. This one is a more melancholy song about being unable to tell someone how they feel, a subject many will relate to.

Back Again is quite a contrast, a demo version of a song that combines country rock with a more electronic influence in the drums which gives it a modern sound. It’s another strong piece of songwriting and I’d be interested to hear the song in its complete production form.

The following Drink of You is my personal favourite on the EP, an infectious and up tempo country pop/rock track and perhaps the one with the most commercial potential of the songs here. Lyrically, it’s a twist on the current fad for country songs celebrating drinking, this time being a metaphor for being intoxicated by the effect of a desired woman. If this hasn’t been released as a single yet, it should be!

The final track Controlled Madness shows the influence of late 80’s stadium-rock with its use of a talk box, first made famous by Peter Frampton and employed on the Bon Jovi classic Livin’ On A Prayer. It gives the song a quirky edge that is unexpected, set to a great rock backing that brought to mind Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World. A great way to finish.

Overall, this is a very strong set of songs that show the versatility of Patrick Carpenter as a songwriter, singer and lead guitarist. Taking country-rock and combining it with the classic stadium-rock sound isn’t an easy trick to pull of, but Patrick makes it seem natural and the result is a musical style that is both vintage and modern. With further material as good as this, the sky’s the limit for Patrick Carpenter.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10             

Alex Faulkner

 

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SINGLE REVIEW: Core by Kori Reardon

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Kori Reardon is a singer-songwriter hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand. Aside from his solo work, he is the front man in an alt-rock band called Rezin though the musical style of his solo material is more acoustic rock. He has been releasing songs under his own name for about four years and this year has seen a plethora of releases including Here We Go Again, Awaken Me, Free You, Raw shot and DSA amongst others.

This latest track, Core, is a heartfelt acoustic rock ballad that showcases his fine skills as a singer and songwriter. Starting off with Led Zeppelin-style acoustic lead guitar over strummed chords, what quickly becomes apparent is the passion and intensity with which he performs his vocals. He has a powerful voice, not unlike Jon Bon Jovi but with his own distinctive nuances and performing style. The song is very well crafted and the title hook grabs you instantly on the first listen: “You shook me to the core…”.

Lyrically, it’s about the difficulties of loving relationships, a subject most will relate to well and there’s a wisdom borne of experience to lines like: “It’s nothing but a waste of time to hurt, blame, scream and fight….”. The song’s arrangement builds gradually and effectively, with the drums not entering until the second verse. After the second chorus is an excellent refrain section that adds to the emotive power of the song (“It’s not yet time to say it, it’s not time to say goodnight.…”).

Overall, this a highly impressive release from a Kiwi songwriter blessed with a strong voice and who gives everything in his vocal performance. His excellent skills as a guitarist go hand in hand with his gift for songwriting and with Core, he may well have the song that really propels him to a much wider audience. With flawless production and a natural commercial appeal that encompasses both rock and pop, the future’s looking good for Kori Reardon.

 

VERDICT = 8.7 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: A Voice In The Wilderness by David Vaters

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https://www.facebook.com/davidvatersalbum

David Vaters is a country singer/songwriter and musician originally from St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada. During his career he has worked with well known musicians and producers such as Henri Spinetti (Eric Clapton, Tina Turner), Dave Markee (Eric Clapton) and Dan Cutrona (Joe Cocker, Bee Gees) amongst many others. He regards his influences as legendary singer/songwriters such as Neil Young, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

This album, A Voice In The Wilderness, comprises two volumes and it is his debut release. It features well known Nashville musicians such as Tom Hemby (Vince Gill, Kenny Loggins) on guitars and mandolin, John Hammond (Amy Grant, Vince Gill) on drums and percussion, along with Jeff Cox on bass and David Vest on keyboards. The latter co-produced with David Vaters, who performs all acoustic guitars and lead vocals.

Volume 1 of the album consists of ten tracks and begins with the melancholy country ballad Let It Rain. It showcases David’s fine voice, which is somewhere between Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. It’s a song that works as a story about a farmer needing rain for his crops, but also as a metaphor for going through hard times and the need for hope. These deeper themes feature throughout the album, with a philosophical style similar to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Running To You is more upbeat, a mid-paced country rock track with Like A Rolling Stone-style drawbar organ. It features a particularly strong chorus which is augmented by some excellent backing harmonies. A standout moment on  this first volume. 8 Ways from Sunday is a tender lighters-in-the-air love ballad devoted to his wife and it’s also the first song on the album that mentions his strong Christian faith: “Only with God’s grace I begin to smile….”.

Brighter Than The Stars is another ballad and is explicitly about his faith and strong relationship with God: “Faith comes by hearing then accepting you…”. It’s a powerful, deeply spiritual song that brings to mind Bob Dylan after his conversion to Christianity. This theme continues on the next track This Cross (“Salvations coming, my work is done”) which gradually builds in intensity across its four minute duration to reach a cathartic climax.

Mansion In The Sky is a poignant song about how having faith and a belief in an afterlife helps you cope with thoughts of death. Credit to David should be given for having the courage to write about life’s most difficult subjects. This one is musically very colourful, with the rich sound of accordion and plucked mandolin.

Sixth track God Help Me Out is another song of humble gratitude about how his faith has sustained him through difficult times. Musically, it’s another organ-driven country rock song, with bursts of bluesy harmonica and slide guitar. See You In Heaven is a very touching track written from the perspective of someone who has died and reassuring his loved one that he’s still around and they will be reunited in the afterlife. This song will comfort anyone suffering with bereavement and deep grief.

It’s Time is an album highlight, an uplifting epic piano-led ballad with a powerful ‘carpe diem’ message and a magnificent vocal performance from Vaters, whose passion and sincerity is axiomatic. Musically, it’s based around a classic descending chord sequence, counter pointed by ascending string lines. The final track on Volume 1 is an instrumental version of Brighter Than The Stars, which shows the musical intricacy of this fine composition in a new light, bringing this volume to a gentle close.

Volume 2 opens with another of David’s philosophical songs that contain a lifetime’s experience and wisdom. Castles In The Sand is about the transitory and ephemeral nature of man’s achievements and how everything we do is only temporary in life. Second track Forgive is one of his deeply moral songs, about the importance of forgiving those who have wronged you. It was an obvious choice as a single.

Godly Man is one of his more uptempo rock tracks that reiterates his faith, interspersed with moments of mellifluous electric lead guitar and some rather cool vocal effects towards the end. Brothers In Need is a poignant song with a minimal but effective musical backdrop, a tale told from the perspective of a homeless man who is helped by others and by finding faith in God. It’s sort of a modern parable, an update of The Good Samaritan.

Prepare is a nice contrast, built around a Sixties-esque picked guitar riff and rich vocal harmonies that brought to mind The Byrd’s circa Younger Than Yesterday. Talking To God is another song about finding the strength to overcome adversity through prayer and faith, a message which will resonate most with fellow Christians.

Like I’ve Been Born Again starts out similarly as a piano ballad before breaking into a muscular beat and as the title implies, is about finding redemption through his faith. I enjoyed the lead guitar section that injects drama into the music halfway through. Service of The King is another single taken from the album, and its easy to see why, with a very radio-friendly sound also featuring gospel-tinged female vocals.

Resurrection Day is musically a bit of a departure, this one an exciting stomp that made me think of Springsteen’s Born To Run album. Lyrically, it’s about the Christian belief that the dead will one day resurrected from the grave at some point, provided they had accepted the Christian doctrines before they died. The second volume closes with another instrumental, with this one being Talking To God. This version allows the musical beauty of the arrangement to shine and ends the album on a high note.

Overall, this is a highly accomplished and ambitious two-volume album. In an era where the art form of the album is dying out and people’s attention spans grow ever shorter, it’s to his great credit to release a double album as his debut. But his decision has already been vindicated, as it has been streamed in the millions already. For those of faith and those without, David Vaters writes songs that capture the timeless human condition.

VERDICT: 8.6 out of 10

 

Alex Faulkner

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ALBUM REVIEW: Whisky Priest by Ben Noble

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Ben Noble is a singer/songwriter currently based in Minneapolis. His music is a unique blend of folk and classical and he’s essentially a troubadour in the tradition of classic songwriters like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. He cites Bon Iver, Damien Rice, Sufjan Stevens and Radiohead as influences. He also brings to mind Nick Drake, Conor Oberst and Elliott Smith in both musical style and the melancholic nature of his lyrics.

This album, Whisky Priest, is his debut and contains twelve tracks. Opening song Birthmark is the perfect introduction to his work; finger picked guitar, Ben’s almost  angelic vocals and hauntingly beautiful melodies and chord progressions. Subtle use of strings adds to the dreamy sonic texture.

Like all good artists, Ben Noble is prepared to confront the dark side of life and even his own nature. Birthmark contains lyrics of Dylan-esque poetic profundity: “Sea of glass on which I’m walking bends to break beneath the shame, why do we slave to build an able ship with doomed remains?”

Second track Healer Might is extraordinary; ‘a capella’ vocals featuring rich, layered harmonies that brought to mind Fleet Foxes, while Little One is a touching, fragile song aided by Saint-Saens style piano. It’s a perfect example of how Ben’s music seems to stand outside time and floats across the listener’s consciousness.

Cutting Teeth captures this disembodied, magical quality and gives us the source of the album title: “Sleep, while you cut your teeth, whisky priest“. He’s a genuine poet as well as a master craftsman of melody, the line “weaving the darkness with the light” from the lovely The Sea And The Moon encapsulating his artistic oeuvre perfectly. The closing three songs are a strong bookend to the album, with final song Ikon providing a gentle epic at five and a half minutes.

Overall, this is an absolute gem of an album containing songwriting of the highest calibre. With certain artists, they are so gifted that it seems somehow an injustice if they are not already hugely successful. In this case, it’s early days as this is his debut release and I expect nothing but critical acclaim and a rapidly expanding fanbase for Ben Noble. Enjoy his music now, while he’s still an unknown treasure waiting to be unearthed.

VERDICT: 9.2 out of 10

Alex Faulkner

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