It’s time to shine!

This is the follow up to 2007’s fantastic album, ‘First You Live’, (released in UK February 2008) that I must admit fell in love with. The danger, of course, of having such a great debut album is that future releases may not live up to expectations, hence the clichéd ‘awkward second album’ syndrome. Do you try to re-write the debut? Do you look to change completely? Do you tentatively evolve slightly, whilst maintaining the recognisable sound? These are all questions that Dusty Apodaca and his crew must’ve asked themselves…

Opening song, ‘All One’ starts with the words, “It’s time to shine” as we get what feels like a more polished sound, from the previous bands’ raw and grass-roots debut. Coming across as a big jam between Toploader, Black Crowes and Head Automatica, you get a mixture of classic Rhythm & Blues and Funk-infused-Folk. Next song, ‘Blind Lead The Blind’ is a slow paced simple song that could be Kings Of Leon if they added a fiddle and injected a few cc’s of Folk. First single, and album title track, ‘Palace And Stage’ is a toe-tapping mid-tempo sing-a-long tune that sums up the band well. Andrea’s violin dances along in the background like a fluttering sheet in a summer breeze, and the band are as tight as a sun-blessed bikini on an optimistic salad-dodger.

‘Andy’ is a wonderfully simple and innocent track. The lyrics can be taken in a number of ways which also helps add an air of mystique to the song. It could be a story of broken friendship between two men, or of a denial of deep feelings. The lyrics go, “You ain’t got what I need // Please don’t make a scene // I’ve got a woman, and I love her, so // These things we need to let go // So come on // Leave me alone…” Brilliant. Then with flashes of big riffs, and a comfy bed of an organ in the background, ‘Sorry For Now’ is a little more Black Crowes. Edson Choi’s slightly deeper vocals sing out in ‘W.W.M.D.’ that has a Blues feel colliding with Pop/Folk, giving the band another dimension.

‘Fire In The Sky’ is the closest to the songs on the previous album with Dusty’s Steven Tyler-esque vocals screeching out beautifully. Then in, ‘Magic Words’ we have a lovely and lively tune that plays on some nice piano and violin work with a 1970’s feel complete with high-vocal harmonies. You could picture silk flares and big hair swaying along with this. This then switches to a slightly more classic 1970’s Rock plod song with some high harmonies, and Edson’s slightly raspy vocals, before the quite fabulous song, ‘So Low’. This song is sung and written by Andrea Babinski, who is normally fiddling away. It is slow, chilled and laid back and you could imagine this being sung in French with the ukulele and what sounds like the wondrous instrument of the glockenspiel! I truly surprise myself at how much I like this song, and it’s a little bit like a guilty pleasure!

The last song, ‘Davidians’ is a great ending to the album. The music has frantic plucking from the ukulele, with a kick drum as Dusty sings the ballad of the cult group of the Davidians, who were lead by the infamous David Koresh and ended up in a gun battle with the FBI in Waco, Texas in 1993. At one point the lyrics go, “Please Mr F.B.I. // Please don’t go inside // Or they will die”, referring to many opinions that the F.B.I. stormed in too early resulting in the Davidans starting fires that would eventually result in 76 people dying including 25 children. There is a hidden track which is a jolly acoustic song in Spanish. To say my Spanish is basic would be a understatement.

All in all this is a great album. ‘First You Live’ was a mix-match of styles leaning more towards rootsy Folk and Country, whereas this has a well produced finish to it and a definite growth to the band in song-writing and musical arrangement. There is more flow to the album that glides from song to song. Being slightly more accessible to the mainstream should help the band reap the benefits of popularity, but they are the quirky purveyors of the thinking man’s Folk, slinging in catchy hooks and glazing over with harmonies and poetic lyrics, Dusty Rhodes & The River Band could well be building into one of the most exciting musical groups of our time!