A little over a year ago I wrote about Andrew Ripp’s debut album – Fifty Miles to Chicago – and absolutely loved it. The beauty of a debut album of that caliber was its honesty. You could tell with each note and word that he believed passionately about his music. So when I had an opportunity to give his sophomore album a listen, I jumped on the chance. Though sometimes new artists will suffer from the “sophomore slump” as they go from the album they had years to produce and hone from the pressure of the music industry pushing them to roll out the next record, occasionally you’ll find an artist so at home with their style and sound that their sophomore album sounds more like they’ve been doing this for years…
She Remains the Same keeps the honesty of that debut album but offers so much more to fans. Ripp continues to surprise, with an album that dives deeper into his own personal truths. From the bluegrass rock feel of “Growing Old Too Young” to the acoustic folk ballad “Forever After Love,” there’s something here for everyone.
As I listened from beginning to end, I was struck by the shared themes turned on their head… Where Fifty Miles to Chicago was more about having fun and finding your path while you enjoy the journey, She Remains the Same focuses on arriving at a destination and dealing with settling down a bit. The truths found by each of us finding a place to call home…
“Savior”‘s message provides an interesting counterpoint to “Dresden Wine” on the last album. We go from “I don’t want to be your savior / I can’t be the one to hold you down…” as a powerful piano ballad to “I found my savior…” and “I found my Jesus on a city street / he gave me freedom through a trash can beat…” with a strong rock/blues guitar song that absolutely rocks as my favorite song on the album. The message is clear – “Don’t worry ’bout me… ‘Cause I know where I’m going when I’m gone…” He’s found his way and it’s awesome.
The song “Rider” is another favorite. This one is less upbeat, but all about lessons learned. The Rider in this case is riding down the line trying to find something… “And I did all my time seeking gold / But this line that I’ve drawn / Is long and taking its toll…” In the end, the goal he’s been seeking on the road is where he’s always been – “Been looking for freedom / When freedom’s been here all along…” And with this message, there’s a driving bass and guitar like the dotted lines of the highway, backed with Ripp’s vocals in minor keys. Like with “Dresden Wine” – there’s a passion here and you can tell it’s personal.
And you can tell that Ripp has found a home in Nashville with a few of these tracks. From the slow, guitar-fueled ballad of “She Don’t Lie” – telling the story of how everything around him is dead, dying, or a lie, but his girl remains the same and doesn’t lie… “I’m breaking at the seams / And my American dream is dead and gone / (But it’s alright cuz) / She don’t lie…”
Then “The Good I’ll Do” focuses on losing the girl… “I touched your heart and turned it black / You swear that it ain’t coming back / But I’m made of more than what I lack…” Broken promises, hope gone up in flames, the girl is gone – but someday he’ll prove he’s worth the trouble.
There’s a spiritual quality to this album as well, as though his time on the road made him find something deeper to draw on. “You Will Find Me” would feel as home in church as on a stage. “When you come thirsty / when the well’s dry / when your soul’s dirty / I am by your side…” With a bit of guitar and steady beat on a single drum in the background, the piano and Ripp’s voice drive this one with a positive message. You are never really alone. And that’s an important thing to remember on the road just as much as it is at home.
If you’re looking for a rock album with a heart, check out She Remains the Same on iTunes or at your favorite retailer. Andrew Ripp may have left Chicago, but he’s continuing to bring his fans a great variety and sharing more of himself in the process.
For more information about Ripp or for a current tour schedule, check out his site – AndrewRipp.com.
This review first appeared at BlogCritics.org here.
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