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Music Review - 'Same Shirt, Different Day` by Rodney Rice (jh)

Rodney Rice - Same Shirt, Different Day (click on image to watch video)

01 September 2020 

 

As you view the album title it looks normal enough, but Rodney Rice uses graphics cleverly to spell it out this way, “SAME SHIRT, DIFFERENT DAY.” Whether he intended it or not, it encapsulates the spirit of the stay-at-home quarantine effect of pandemic days, where one can often lost sight of what day it is, as routines set in.  Who knows? Maybe Rice was conveying the monotony of everyday life, but it does grab one’s attention and sets the stage for some good songs too. He gives another reason to explore his music by assembling a top-notch cast. The album was recorded in Austin with drummer Rick Richards and string man par excellence Jeff Plankenhorn, keyboardists Mark Hallman and Austin De Lone, and pedal steel player Mike Hardwick, among others. Hallman also mastered the album.

Stylistically, you’ve heard Rice’s brand of music before. As this write listens to make singer-songwriters these days, growing numbers of them pattern their approach on Dylan or the late John Prine, with Rice clearly falling into the latter camp. This West Virginia native blends the simplicity of folk with a healthy dose of country., to weave stories of sharp observations, witty and oft sarcastic commentary. He begins with “Ain’t Got a Dollar,” a surging rocker that could serve as a blue -collar anthem, with heavy B3 and a wall of guitars backing his talking blues (okay, this one favors Dylan). The next tune “Hard Life,” however could come straight from the Prine songbook. Like his mentor, Rice uses deceptively simple music to underpin his clever lyrics found in “Middle Managed Blues,” “Company Town” – succinct portrayals of the daily grind, befitting the title.

In fact the strength of the album is clearly in the lyrics because, despite the skills and studded resumes of his backer, much of the music has a sameness, amplified by segueing into one another often, as it it’s one long track. Much of that owes to Rice’s delivery which rarely changes, no matter how emotional the song becomes. There are notable exceptions.   The horns on “Company Town” evokes the sound of The Band and some hints of New Orleans. Producer Andre Moran’s resonator work on “Middle Managed Blues” impresses as well. “Pillage and Plunder” and “Memoirs of Our Youth” seem to owe directly to Prine, the latter with a nice harmony assist from Bonnie Whitmore; both songs being standouts.

As the album unfolds, it takes on some Texas flavor, certainly with the waltzing “Walk Across Texas” and another blue- collar hymn, “Rivers Run Backwards,” replete with some wry commentary on climate change and the socio-political landscape. Rice clearly knows the country idioms for the requisite tear-jerker to with a line such as (“I can’t get over her while she’s lying next to him” in “Can’t Get Over Her.” He seems to genuinely impart wisdom and encouragement on the strong closer “Don’t Look Back.” Rodney rice is a first-rate songwriter. Two albums in, he is making great progress. He bears watching.

 

Jim Hynes

 

 

Jim Hynes is an independent contributor on music for several magazines, including Elmore and Country Standard Time. He has also written for Variety. He was a listener-supported public station(s) radio host for 25 years in CT, MI, NJ and PA. He is also a Live music host/Emcee at several national and regional venues.

To Read All of Jim's Reviews, Click Here

 

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