P. O. Box 788
San Marcos, TX 78667-0788
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by C. Robb Worthington
This CD has been hard to review. On the one hand, the musicianship displayed is of such a high quality. The harmonies are beautiful. Combine that with good engineering and production, particularly of the layered guitars, and you would expect to end up with a very listenable album, which it is.
On the other hand, the lead vocals, sung by Andy Van Dyke, take some getting used to. My first thought was that the lead singer should be the lead singer less often and share front stage with the other obviously equally- talented members of the band, much like the Eagles and Joe Walsh. But as I listened to this CD more and more, approximately 20 times now, the lead vocals grew on me.
On uptempo tunes like I Ain't Ever Goin Home Van Dyke's raspy, breathy delivery works very well. His voice adds an intensity to the tune that a more orotund voice might not provide. One production note: There is a rhythm guitar recorded kind of thinly here (which by itself would be fine), but the shaker or hat is just hot enough to combine with it to give the tune a slightly out of balance tinny sound.
Never Meet Again is a sweet and lonely ballad. With beautiful harmonies and touching lyrics this tune sets the tone of the whole project and is one of the songs I think of as defining the sound of the Rainravens.
Trust the Whole World is a well-written soulful tune. It has one of my favorite lines on the CD: "You had a dream you were dying and nothing flashed before your eyes" is delivered in a talky style that feels like your best friend painfully lecturing you on your own shortcomings. Van Dyke has a habit of dropping off the final note of a phrase, which he uses to good effect on this tune. I particularly like the guitar sounds and parts on this one.
My least favorite tune on the disc is probably What Did You Save for Me, though it does have some nice Eagles-like harmonies and an arrangement that further cements that effect.
Long Way to Fall is nice lyrically and musically but probably would have profited from a different delivery. By this time the fall-off at the end of the phrase is getting a shade tiresome. I do, however, especially like the arrangement of this one.
So Far Gone is an almost weepy country-and-western ballad with very nice pedal steel work and a 6/8 waltz feel.
Though well-executed, Wide Awake is another one I tend to skip. It's very close to a song Timbuk 3 did a number of years ago.
I've always heard that good musicians imitate, great musicians copy. The drum riff opening Coyote Moon is immediately reminiscent of Dire Straits (Down to the Waterline, I think). A studio drummer friend of mine swears it dates back to a Nilsson tune as well. An excellent use of an excellent riff--kudos to Herb Belofsky. This is one of the strongest tunes on the CD. It features haunting lead guitar and dobro work and nicely controlled vocals for a captivating overall sound.
On My Soul and You, the prominent hat stroke on the third beat bugs me a little just because I think it's too hot in the mix. This is more of a problem when listening in the car than in my studio. Otherwise, this tune is of particular significance for its interesting breaks and diverse guitar work. It's also another track that the lead vocal is well-suited for. I especially like where it sits in the mix. This is also one of the few tunes where I think the bass is present enough. The song absolutely rides on David Everson's strong bass track.
Hands on the Wheel features some nice fiddle work by Ron Knuth. It adds a delicious change of texture to the last tune on the CD. Again, I think Van Dyke's vocal delivery works well here.
Overall, this is a very nice CD, particularly if you are a fan of that mellow country rock sound the Eagles popularized. I'd like to hear a fuller bottom end with a little more bass and just a shade fatter snare sound. This brings me to what I think is the best tune on the CD, "What Are You Doing Tonight." It exemplifies what I want to hear from the rest of the CD. The mix is excellent, the lyrics can be identified with by just about anyone, and the vocals work well.
The Rainravens are a talented bunch of guys. They've produced a very listenable piece of work here with a soulful feel. I look forward to their next project. It's obvious that they all sing, I'd just like to hear more of the other voices.
Edited by Henry Koretzky