Are music reviews really that important?
This is a question that I have considered for some time. In general it’s not fair to put some art into a category. And what about the reviewers own subjectivity. There’s no way of discerning that. Frankly speaking I am a bit of a skeptic when it comes to music reviews, or reviews of art in general for that matter.
So many times I’ve seen reviews of art that I totally think misses the point. And I’m not talking about not sharing the reviewers subjective taste here. I am talking about a certain narrow-mindedness that limits the art into one’s own perception of what art should be and fails to reach out and grasp the artists perspective. It’s like closing in on what you already know instead of opening up to discover new ground. That being said, I certainly welcome anyone’s honest opinion.
Normally I don’t really care about reviews or what people may think of my music. To truly be creative you must be completely open and authentic in order to tell the stories you want to tell in your music.
I got a review on my album Crossroads Of My Life by a well known and highly respected figure in the business named, PETER “BLEWZZMAN” LAURO (keeping the blues alive award recipient). Anyone who wants to be somebody sends their music to him for a review. Needless to say he’s probably listened to thousands of blues CD’s.
I don’t know what – if anything – Johnny Riley may have done for a living besides being a musician. Quite honestly, from what I’m hearing, I couldn’t imagine him ever doing anything else. With a voice like this, Johnny Riley was born to sing the blues.
On his second CD, titled “Crossroads Of My Life”, Johnny Riley – on rhythm guitar, vocals and harmonica – is joined by: Mike Lowrimore on Hammond B3, Piano and keyboards; Bill Marshall and Steve Fly on drums; Evan Leake on lead, rhythm, slide, acoustic and bass guitars; J C Roberts and Tommy Davis on bass; Barry Kemp on tambourine and back up vocals; and Mickey Rogers on lead guitar. The CD contains ten tracks of which eight are Johnny Riley originals.
The one sheet accompanying the CD proudly noted that everyone involved with the project was from Texas, Tennessee or Mississippi. I can’t help but wonder if Johnny ever thought of calling the band Johnny Riley and the Texatennesippi Blues Project?
On the opening and title track Johnny claims that he’s standing at the crossroads of his life. Having heard that, I’m hoping he doesn’t rush into making any deals with the devil just yet. In actuality, from what I’m hearing, Johnny seems to be on top of the world professionally. From every note sung, to every note played and from the production process, to the recording process, “Crossroads Of My Life” is a masterpiece.
The song is sung with such conviction; The lyrics tell a compelling story; The tone from every instrument is perfect and every one of those instruments can be perfectly heard throughout the track; Kudos to Johnny Riley (vocals, harp and rhythm guitar); Mike Lowrimore (Hammond B3); Bill Marshall (drums); Evan Leake (lead guitar, co-producer); J C Roberts (Bass, co-producer); and Barry Kemp (co-producer); collectively, you guys were genius on this “song of the year” caliber project.
To convey my thoughts on “Anger Sets In” I could easily say “see above”. With that thought in mind, this could turn out to be the most redundant review of my career. Hey, as the saying goes – you call a spade a spade so I won’t apologize for calling perfection, perfection. Once again, Mike, Bill and Evan are so profound on the rhythm it sounds like the organ, drum kit and bass amp are right behind me. Doing triple duty, Evan’s also killing it on slide and lead guitar. And Johnny, with such a subtle but yet very cool twang, is belting the hell out the vocals. Another monster track.
By this groups standards, “Lonely Is The Night”, is one of the more relaxed tracks, with the keywords in that statement being “by this groups standards”. On what’s probably as close as Johnny Riley gets to a ballad, his vocals are totally mesmerizing – I could, and very well may – listen to this song for hours. Although still somewhat intense, Mike, Steve and J C – on the organ, drums and bass – have a tight rhythm thing going but musically it’s Evan’s accomplished acoustic guitar work that stands out here. Here I sit, blown away again.
“You’re Wrong” is actually a nice way of saying it, Johnny. From what I’m hearing this woman did to you I’d have expected to hear you say you’re wrong (expletive deleted)! This smoker is another well written, well sung track that features Johnny tearing it up on the harp and teaming up with Evan for some rippin’ guitar riffs.
According to Johnny, when his woman left him she did so without even writing a note – but he saw it coming, because the writing was on the wall. “No Letter Blues” is by far the most traditional blues track of the disc. It’s features Johnny belting out good old, low down, gut wrenching, gravel voiced vocals and on his only appearance on the disc, scorching blues guitar leads by Mickey Rogers.
Other tracks on this very Impressive recording include: “Cold, Cold Summer” (Ross,Edwards and Graham ), “Be My Woman”, “I Wonder”, “No Love On My Mind” and “John The Revelator” (Public Domain).
The disc’s liner notes, written by Carol Marble of Mississippi Delta Blues Music, end by welcoming you as one of Johnny’s newest fans. Since that now directly applies to me, I thinks it’s appropriate for me to say “Thank you Carol”.
To find out more about Johnny Riley just go to www.johnnyrileymusic.com. After you tell him the Blewzzman sent you, please tell him I’ll be looking for his name – in several categories – on next years Blues Music Awards ballot.
By Peter “Blewzzman” Lauro © July 2015. Blues Editor @ www.Mary4Music.com
Honestly I’m more interested to here what you guys think than some guy with a fancy title. No disrespect to Peter. He is a great guy but it’s really you that is going to be listening to this music mostly.
I want to hear from you guys.
If you have heard the album drop a comment and tell me what you thought of it. I’m open to any criticism.
If you haven’t heard the album then I invite you to get yourself a copy right here.
So go on because Crossroads Of My Life will transport you to a run-down juke joint in the middle of nowhere while giving you the impression that this is something new.
Pick up a copy here: www.johnyriley.com/store