Kris Heaton - R-Me Strong
I'm not a blues aficionado by any stretch of the imagination, but I certainly appreciate and respect a good blues band. I also understand that a rockin' blues band generally doesn't need to reinvent the wheel, either musically or lyrically, and that sometimes the tried and true formulas and structures are just fine if the band is solid.
Kris Heaton's new CD, R-Me Strong, certainly doesn't break much new ground, but it's a raw and gritty take on the blues that varies from slow grinders to barroom rockers and back to mellow grooves. The guitar work throughout is solid and tasteful and at times it downright wails. The few harmonica leads are great, but unfortunately they only show up in a few spots.
While the vocals are distinct and raunchy, there are many times when the clichéd or unimaginative lyrics are the downfall of an otherwise good song.
Case in point is the title track, which starts with the declaration "This is for all the men and women who risk their lives every day to save our country." It's a worthy sentiment for sure, but when they get to the chorus that chants "We're strong/We're Army strong!" it sounds like an empty and obvious ploy to one day get picked up for a commercial. It would be like writing a song with the chorus, "Budweiser/The king of beers." Again, I'm sure Heaton's heart is in the right place, and good on him for writing a song dedicated to those in harm's way. It just could've been executed more subtly to better effect.
"Dirty Mind" and "Weatherman" also suffer from predictable and/or sophomoric lyrics. The synth parts on "Alligators" (track 9) seems musically out of place, but again, the nice guitar work saves the day.
This CD is best when it's dialed down a bit for the mellower blues numbers that convey some soul and mood like on "Night Train", "Evil", and the especially fine "Loser". The disc feels like it's going to end with the live "Long Time Ago", which gives a nice glimpse of the energy of the band's shows, but then the real ending comes with the mellow "When Men Cry". Seems like live tracks or mellow songs are good album closers, but trying to use both came off a little clumsy.
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