Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ron Greene – Sketches

Ron Greene’s debut album, Sketches, is quite possibly the most overlooked album of the past year. I say this not to make some bold, sweeping statement or to simply to grab your attention. I say it because it’s a freaking good album filled with amazingly expressive, rootsy acoustic soul music that moved me to various points of emotion. Hip shaking and groovin’ one minute, completely somber and introspective the next. Yeah Waveriders, you read that correct. I’m making the claim that one of the year’s most overlooked albums is a rootsy soul shaker and not some darkened extreme metal disc. Oh, there’s so much y’all don’t know about me.

Greene’s voice emits a comfort like hot cocoa and a roaring fire on a rainy night. “Memories” opens the disc with that voice just soothing itself over the psyche. So strikingly familiar, yet unique in its own textures . . . oh! And the melodies! As Greene tells tales of his youth, the music is soulful and groovin’. The bass lines thump out the swagger that inevitably shakes the hips, and the acoustic guitar work shimmers and strums its way into the heart. What immediately caught my attention with this song is that, though it’s got that sensitive singer/songwriter vibe to it, the tune has unorthodox treatments throughout it. Case in point, the breakdown at the end of the song with its funkified bass work just isn’t heard enough in the stuff that so prevalent these days. The textures and tones have more in common with the music of the ‘70’s than today’s more contemporary rock. Actually, when listening to “Memories” I need y’all to think Tracy Chapman’s first album. Real music. Real emotion.

And, if “Memories” doesn’t get you thinking that Ron Greene has some serious soul, wait until you hear “Trust.” Awhile back, I reviewed Ernie Halter’s Start Over album and compared his song “Lighthouse” to a modern day “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Lean On Me.” “Trust” falls into that same category of inspirational folk music that sends chills across the flesh and fills the heart with hope and strength. What I find most intriguing about the song is that Greene built the lyrics to leave a little ambiguity in who we’re supposed to have trust in. Arguments can be made that we need to trust in God, but he never comes out and says it. The argument here is that one could also trust in a best friend, spouse, parent, or even one’s self. It’s a beautifully fashioned song that will inevitably wind up on the Ripple Radio Show! Damn . . . I’ve got tears welling up as I write this. Ron, you’re the man. What more can you ask of a musician than to have their work move you on an emotional level? Such power!

Waveriders, don’t go thinking that Sketches is merely an album that highlights Ron Greene’s stellar voice and ability to craft heartwarming lyrics. The dude can play a mean guitar, as well. Check out the finger snapping licks he throws down on “Sunday Morning Jam.” His phrasing through the jam is great, and the sounds that he squeezes out of those notes are out of this world. A little vibrato here, a bent note there. Simply put, it’s a tasteful guitar solo over a solid rhythm.

Check out the jazzed out tones making up “Better Place.” Between the guitar work and the bass lines, this tune stands out as a semi-rocker with a mellow vibe. Jazzy, funky, and lyrically poignant, Greene mixes a number of influences together to create yet another moving song. The patient build up of “Live & Learn” from a delay drenched guitar line to the soaring chorus with its open strumming, man . . . this is the stuff I wish I wrote! The Pope’s “thumbs up moment” comes around the 1:54 mark as Greene drops the tempo and changes up the flow of the song. Rather than carry the tune on what would be considered a more traditional course, he shook the song up and made it a hundred times more interesting. One last major point of interest comes with the final track, “C’est La Vie.” Just to show that he’s not afraid to open things up and rock out a bit, Greene plugs in the electric sixer and wraps up the album with a Living Colour tinged alt-rocker. The solo scorches, just showing one more facet of his being and ever so deep well of talent.

If y’all couldn’t tell, I’m excited about this disc. I’m so damned bored of these guys who pick up their acoustic guitars, sit on a retaining wall overlooking waves crashing on the seashore, and write songs about how sensitive they are. Ron Greene is my freaking hero for taking that path only so far and then forging his own way. Sketches is an acoustic based soulful album, but Green changes things up to keep from being clichĂ©. Much like Cat Stevens used to do with his music, Ron Greene adds time changes and odd breaks to make the music more than just a strummed chord for a billion measures. In fact, I think Sketches would fit nicely alongside Stevens’ Buddha and the Chocolate Box. Great album, great songwriting, great talent, and I can’t wait to hear what comes from him next! - Pope JTE

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4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ron IS the man!!!!! We are lucky to have him in our back yard.

Anonymous said...

Ron only gets better live!!!! He rocks and should be on everyones radio!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ron music is outstanding and full great heart warming soul after listening to his album i definitely will be
adding him to my ipod.

Anonymous said...

Ron has a very inspirational voice. It makes you want to go out and try things. It makes you feel all sorts of emotions that you never could have thought possible to feel. He's a very great guy and a very great musician. GO RON!!!

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