Randy Rivere has changed direction pretty significantly in this, Red and Blue, his fourth release under the Mad Buffalo sobriquet. Last time out, with Wilderness (here), he took a harder line in the CD's sonics, rousting things about a bit above otherwise more decorous compositions. Red and Blue seems to be a reaction to the onslaught of disasters and cultural decay so damned prevalent lately. It's certainly a good deal more thoughtful, laconic, measured. Rivere's a wildlife biologist by trade as well as a student of history, and the two have combined to create a much rootsier ambiance here, a sound that reaches way back while roaming vast wheatfields and hill country.
Those who got hip to Wilderness are going to be a tad shocked at the almost Leonard Cohen-ish shift in mood and tone. Airy and balmy, the songs look a good deal more closely at matters of flesh and soul, often arriving at no answer…just like existence itself. Walk This Life Alone, my pick for airplay, returns to a Firefall-ish setting, very satisfyingly so, this time mixed with a folkier backscatter, something that may well make Rick Roberts himself think about the very attractive strategy. As before, James Pennebaker's contributions are noticeable and significant, and Reggie Young was held over from the last outing, creating a comfortable inner trio.
The title cut's the most nakedly earthen of the octet, a ghost of Neil Young hanging just outside the studio door. It, in fact, could easily be the keystone for a whole cycle of tunes, a composition with 'concept cycle' written all over it, the proletariat East Side counterpart to, say, Iced Earth's Gettysburg. As much as I liked Wilderness, I gotta say I'm a good deal more impressed by this disc. It sketches out the true backbone and ribs of Rivere, strips away all the modernisms to demonstrate just how deeply the composer has his feet in the sod of the pioneers, farmers, cowboys, and outsiders. There is, at least to these ears, a quite significant echo of Tom Cochrane in Red and Blue as well, though of very different melodic sensibility. Whatever follows this release will probably be Rivere's magnum opus; everything up to this point indicates it.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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