Albums like Hidden Everywhere has to have critics and his fans wondering why you don't hear more of Chris Rosser. Musically solid and a great lyricist, his name should be tossed around as a "worthy of mention" if not a "must hear", but somehow he has fallen through the cracks and I suppose at this time of music industry turmoil, it is no surprise. And yet it is. In terms of oil and water, many of us believe that oil will rise to the surface eventually and, in this case, Rosser is pure oil. He has a quality hard to define, and those who find it easy will have missed the mark. As an introduction, let us just say that he's damn good and let the music speak for him.
The Wurlitzer is a great instrument, which is probably why so many musicians utilize it these days, and Rosser uses it throughout this album, no better than on the opening track, "Favorite Part" which has an upbeat R&B feel similar to that in The Buckinghams' classic rendition of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Rosser and the backup singers (Stephanie Corby and Beth Wood) do a great job dancing vocally around the rhythm, which has a light and jazzy head-bobbing quality and Rosser's keyboard work is spot on. A great opener.
Not like anything else on the album, Before the Locusts feeds off of driving rhythm and what sounds like Native American lyrics and tells a story of feast and famine from planes of either science fiction and/or higher consciousness. Musically, it is very tight, rhythms helped along by somewhat odd and intriguing instrumentation and arrangement.
On Brilliant In the Dark, Rosser and company come on like Steely Dan and Manhattan Transfer, jazzing it up with a cat who must make it easy because man, this track top to bottom is, shall we say, the cat's meow? Thank God Rosser writes lyrics better than I write reviews because there is absolutely nothing wrong and everything right here—swinging rhythm, bee-yoo-ti-fully done background vocals (Corby and Wood are, again, a perfect offset for Rosser's fine vocals) and attitude ("Meanwhile his fridge is open/He hasn't thought about that in years/He pops the top and disappears"). Hardly tongue-in-cheek, the song captures character on so many levels. You might call it a musical couch trip.
Rosser stays on the folk side on Benjamin, a wondering tribute to a friend tied to the simple life, as it were, who chooses to "live off the power grid". While it is about Benjamin, one can't help but think it is maybe more about Chris Rosser and who at times he wishes he could be.
While You Sleep ends the journey with a light Vince Guaraldi-like somnambulism. Slow, introspective, it winds you down and before you know it, you fade to black. It is not unlike the artist who sings a cappella as a final encore, the musical quiet signaling fini.
Rosser has a soft quality on a few of the songs (Natural Wonder is just that and more) and could easily have limited himself to that, but he is more than singer/songwriter here. Limiting himself to ballads would have been an incredible waste and anyone with any sense of adventure at all should recognize it by the end of the album. He handles multiple instruments with adeptness and his musical vision is amazingly diverse. While I hesitate to use such trite terms as "the real deal", Rosser is definitely that and my vocabulary lacks the strength to say it better.
Truth be told, if anything sets Rosser apart from his peers it is his depth. These are not songs of the moment nor are they "ditties" or anything of that ilk. They are life set to music so well that you wish you had the talent but, lacking that, are glad that he does. Sometimes you need more than the music or the lyrics—you need the music AND lyrics welded seamlessly together and that is precisely what he gives us. Hidden Everywhere is nothing less than food for the soul.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2007, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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