Nico Rivers - To The Bone
These two versions of the same track may leave you a little perplexed. How does the rest of Rivers' music fit in to the shape he has formed, and then extended the boundaries of? It is not an easy question to answer, but trying to find an answer is rewarding. Tracks like "Demons" are very much in the up-tempo electric vein of his music, while others, such as "Heart" see Rivers with a single acoustic guitar and a rasping voice which brings with it images of a distant age.
Rivers was previously part of a local L.A. outfit called Pine Mountain Casket and went solo upon that band's demise last year. Not having heard the band, it is hard to ascertain whether Rivers' striking out on his own is a good or bad thing in comparison. Still, with To the Bone, Rivers has come up with his own take on the folk-Americana which has increased in popularity and prevalence in recent years. What makes him different is that his music is organic, grown from within, and not so much a contrived set-piece such as bands such as Midlake seem to produce.
This has advantages. Rivers sings from the heart. Some of his songs, such as "Josephine" would, I would swear, be drawn from his personal experience. If not, he makes a damn good pass at it. His voice is distinctive enough too, to mark him out. Sung loud, and with some force, there are times when this contrasts with the otherwise delicate plucking of the acoustic guitar. Sometimes it can be deceptive. "Molotovs" would, on first thought, take its name from the petrol-filled bottles beloved of rioters the world over. Listening to it, without paying too much attention to the lyrics, and the presence of a harmonica would only strengthen that opinion for it sounds like a protest song. But the lyrics do not convince you of that, for the song is one of those reminiscences for days past, sort of sitting on a fence throwing stones in the river wonerding what happened to your youth. And yet, there is a protest song. "Oildrips" has a great singalong quality about it while berating the death of young men for the sake of the profits of oil companies and the governments owned by them.
Nico Rivers should be pleased with this work. It is definitely one which deserves a good hearing across a wider audience. His upcoming tour will hopefully bring him to the attention of many more people. The music will not appeal to everyone and, if I had a criticism it would be that some of the songs outstay their welcome - they have said what they have to say and yet are allowed to go on for a minute or more longer than necessary. That apart, this EP is a fine effort.
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