CD Review: The Rivergods - Signs

CD Review by Adam Wujtewicz

Stalwart alt-country folksters The Rivergods have been pleasing audiences with their unique blend of all things "Americana" for over 10 years.  Their brand new full length Signs offering is full of everything you should expect from a word like Americana.  It’s not just another day at the office though, there are moments that, if they don’t surprise you, then they’ll at least make you smile a little wider than you already were.

For all of the instrumentation on this record the sound is surprisingly sparse, not to be confused with "hollow" or "lacking".  Due to meticulous mixing and panning none of the instruments jockey for position and none of the sounds overlap or muddy each other up, a place for everything and everything in its place.  This doesn’t add up to a wall of sound but it allows your ear to drift from instrument to instrument and catch sounds as they come into and fade out of the songs.  A song that’s as quiet and personal as “Shallow End” most people would not play with anything but an acoustic guitar.  The Rivergods took that song and used full instrumentation and by keeping everything subdued and minimal they made it even more powerful.

On the poppier side of that coin "Runaway Mind" is another tearjerker of a song set to a very choppy piano driven  verse which makes it skip along so you’re hopeful rather than crawl along and make you cry in the dark.  This is my vote for best song on the album.  The lead guitar pop’s and chirps over Nancy’s natural and fluid vocals while the piano and bass boost her up and let her shine.  The Rivergods have always been an “all inclusive” band, they know how to pull people in, keep their attention and make them listen to and enjoy things they wouldn’t expect.

The biggest surprise on Signs is the Neil Young meets Black Angels "Roadrunner Blues".  A tense psychedelic journey through the rock n’ roll desert.  The clicking snare drum is a time bomb that explodes during the choruses.  Guitars sneak up on you from all sides and the low distortion rolls over the whole song like a fog.  This is probably the most atypical song on the record and though it may surprise some listeners it’s the song that showcases the production of the album the best.
Signs is a collection of great songs that you would have to try very hard to wear out.  There is plenty of variety and nothing to push you away from it.


CD Review: Gone For Good - Lightning Behind The Grace

CD Review by Adam Wujtewicz

Gone for Good is back in full swing and their new full length Lightning Behind the Grace, is all the proof you need.  The record was recorded by Jason Banta of the band Recur Occurrence, mostly in a run down room of a downtown New London building that just happened to have perfect acoustics... this is a home grown affair.  A little more agro and intense then they once were, they've focused that energy into creating a fully formed and cohesive LP.

The quality of sound on this record is top notch.  The guitars are huge, full and round.  There is a large Queens of the Stone Age influence in the guitar sound and riff writing on the album, but what they diverge from the 'Queens is the amount of vocal melodies and harmonies that add whole new dimensions the songs.  There is plenty of force in Nick’s voice but even when he's pushing his voice to breaking there is always pitch, (with the exception of the Phil Anselmo-esque monolog on "Devilish Grin").

The sound of the rhythm section is one of a train rolling downhill with a belly full of coal.  Ryan's bass is driving and keeps the sound from getting too top heavy with the amount of guitar on the record.  The overdriven bass breaks are great reminders that Ryan is present... pushing and shoveling fuel on the fire throughout the record.  Gene's drumming is as steady as it comes and it's constantly inventive and attention grabbing.  The best example is the snare work on "House of Ghosts".  This could have been played straight the whole way through but he keeps your ear working with the extra rhythms.  The crack of the snare and the boom of the toms are great compliment to each other.

There is a much heavier straight ahead rock sound on Lightning Behind the Grace than the poppy, swinging sound of Gone for Good’s previous EP The Bright Lights.  This should in no way deter anyone from listening.  GFG knows a song needs a melodic chorus after an intense verse, and they know that songs need rhythmic breakdowns when a song has been rolling at a steady tempo for 2 minutes.  The songs don't have the Pixies style 'loud-quiet-loud' dynamic formula but are dynamic in tempo and feeling which allow them to smooth out all the edges without sacrificing the integrity of their sound.

What truly makes a great LP is cohesion and flow.  There are a few things that most small market bands won't bother to do either because of money restraints or because they simply don't think about it.  Songs like "Nowhere Reprise" give continuity and allow the listener to relax before they're hit with another whole song to absorb.  The album’s closer "Big Sleep" is a nice wind down with an interesting sound so that you don't hit stop before it ends.  Young bands take note, it's these things that take a collection of very good songs and turn them into a great album like Lightning Behind the Grace.