Music Review: She Remains the Same – Andrew Ripp

Hi there…

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.

Savior – Andrew Ripp by SidewaysMedia

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.

–Fitz

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Music Review: Behave Yourself (Dig)[EP] – Cold War Kids

Hi there!

The Cold War Kids was formed just a few years ago in California and doesn’t seem to have taken much of a break since 2004. They have even been quoted saying with as often as they’re on tour “Why even have apartments?” CWK seems to thrive on live performances, rather than wanting to be regularly in the studio.

Behave Yourself (Dig) is a collection of four songs and a jam session that didn’t make it onto their Robbers & Cowards or Loyalty to Loyalty albums or their many EPs released since 2005. The band consists of Matt Aveiro on drums, Matt Maust on bass, Jonnie Bo Russell on guitar and Nathan Willett on vocals and piano. And based on these four songs, I have to say they have a unique sound that crosses boundaries.

“An Audience of One” opens the EP with Willett exploring his great range while not listening to the advice proposed by the EP title… Tough to “Behave Yourself” when singing lyrics like “Reach out and point a finger / And touch the globe / Spin around and where it stops / You’ve got to pack your bags and go…” Sounds good to me, but easier to do when you’re young and free!

From there we progress to “Coffee Spoon” with its easy pop guitar and percussion backing Willett’s smooth lyrics once again. This one’s meaning is a bit darker though, perhaps in response to some of the economic troubles the world has been seeing. He sings “my indulgence is a joke / and while everyone laughs / I’m clipping coupons / and saving my breath…” The upbeat music mixed with the messages of consumption and the mismatch with how the voice of the song actually feels makes this one stand out.

Santa Ana Winds” is my favorite of the four songs. Like “Coffee Spoon” it mixes upbeat and almost happy melodies and percussion with observations of the gritty California world around them. “Easter on Olvera Street / Girls nursing new babies in alleyways / In between is a basin like the great divide…” showing the disconnect between different sides of the same street all too familiar to most inner cities today. Socially conscious rock songs make me feel that younger generations actually have the hope to see a change in their lifetime.

And the last song, “Sermons vs. the Gospel,” continues the socially deep trend, but this time slowing it down to almost a Southern Church feel stripped down to a few bare instruments and voices. “Got this idea in my head and I can’t get it out / cause all your money and all your culture / I can surely live without…” Begging for mercy from the lord in a world where the rich get richer and the poor keep getting poorer…

Having never heard of the Cold War Kids before, I have to say I’m impressed. Solid music and lyrics that make you stop and think. There may be hope yet.

For more details about CWK, their touring schedule, and previous releases be sure to check out their website at www.coldwarkids.com.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this CWK EP and other albums at Amazon!

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Music Review: The Besides EP by J.Viewz

Hey all…

Once again, a fusion of musical styles strikes when I least expect it. Never in my life have I heard a Michael Jackson song done as a jazz tune. And that was just the start of this strange journey into the world of J.Viewz. It’s like stepping into a pool filled with color. Each song lays out just so with elements of electronica, jazz, unique vocals and keyboards, all seamlessly blended together.

Jonathan Dagan established J.Viewz while working with his band Violet Vision on their 2nd album back in 2002. Muse Breaks, Dagan’s first album with the group, was released worldwide in 2005 by Deeplay Music. Since then, it doesn’t seem like he’s taken much of a breath, working to create remixes with artists like Nina Simone while producing soundtracks for the BBC, National Geographic, Fox Kids, and Discovery channels, while touring to support J.Viewz. Though Dagan hails from Israel, there are definitely no language barriers for his music as it travels the world.

The Besides EP was released overseas in 2008 and is just gaining ground in the U.S. with tour dates at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City and the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C. in November.

The EP starts off with a jazz cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” which absolutely snuck up on me. As a child of the ’80s, I certainly had heard the original version but somehow must have blocked the lyrics from my mind. So when I heard the vocals of Noa Lembersky I simply got lost in the song until I heard “You’ve Been Hit By / You’ve Been Hit By / A Smooth Criminal”. After that I was just along for the ride.

Each song grooves right into the next, smoothly transitioning us through a jazz landscape I wouldn’t mind exploring for a while longer.

The band is made up of Dagan, who handles production, the computers, and turntables; Lembersky on vocals; Urijah on vocals and guitar; Eran Asias on drums; and Daniel Koren on keys. As a lifelong fan of jazz, especially where a fusion of rock sensibilities is mixed in, I have to say I love their style. They manage to bridge multiple gaps without missing a beat.

When the last strains of the live version of “Under the Sun” ends and the EP fades away, I immediately started it over again not wanting it to be over. Lembersky’s sultry vocals with the horn, bass, drums, and the ’70s guitar in the background had a groove that didn’t want to let me go. These guys must be a joy to see live.

If you want to hear more from J.Viewz, check out their MySpace page and look for The Besides EP. It’s worth more than one listen if you like jazz.

–Fitz

p.s. Check out other J.Viewz albums:

Besides Ep

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