Blue Rose [Release date 27.01.17]
You can tell a ‘serious’ musician when their album credits lists both the guitars and amplifiers they use, but Tuscon guitar slinger and songwriter Rich Hopkins comes across as one laid back dude.
He might have a ‘lazy’ vocal style, and might not engage in any modern day guitar pyrotechnics, but there’s a southern rock ‘feel good’ factor reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Neil Young in their prime that just oozes from his playing.
With his bands SideWinders, Sand Rubies, and, since 1992, Luminarios he’s averaged an at least an album every two years since 1987. And while he may be a well-kept secret in the UK and at home, it would seem that German audiences have picked up on his attributes.
But it’s only relatively recently that he’s teamed up (band wise, and matrimonially) with Texan born singer / songwriter Lisa Novak who shares co-writing credits throughout My Way Or The Highway.
There’s a relaxed Tom Petty vibe that permeates a set peppered with some exquisite guitar playing and lovely harmony vocals. Novak takes occasional lead vocals as on ‘Want You Around’ – a terrific up-tempo jangling number reminiscent of 10,000 Maniacs / Lone Justice supplemented by some wonderfully loose jammed lead guitar lines. It’s classic American rock.
‘If You Want To’ has that loose, rootsy, Skynyrd groove with the guitar lines building and building like a pressure cooker about to blow. And while I was initially sceptical of the cameo of Tuscon hip-hopper Cesar Aguirre on ‘Meant For Mo”, several listens in, it’s a perfect example of how to bridge two seemingly incompatible genres.
Fast forward to ‘Chan Kah’, and ‘Gnashing Of Teeth’ – two more wonderfully organic, guitar fuelled numbers that bring the album towards a mesmerising close and, there you have it, an album full of heart and soul and some of the most free flowing guitar playing you’ll hear this year. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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