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RON POPE —WORK (Ron Pope Music & Brooklyn Basement Records)

 

www.ronpope.com

 

Independent artist Ron Pope music covers a wide horizon of sounds when it comes to taste, and trying to place a handle on his work is a task in itself. The fact the record was recorded using only analog equipment certainly did Pope and the songs no harm (non whatsoever), and with him and the players rising to the occasion, Work is one of those records you can play anytime, anywhere.   

 

To give you some idea of the diverse nature of his taste in music the Nashville-based (he also has ties and a residency in New York) act earlier this year performed “Baby, I Love You” at Carnegie Hall as part of (an all-star) The Music Of Aretha Franklin Tribute Show.

 

Among the top notch set of players that accompany him on the 10-track album you have Jay Collins (sax), Mike Riddleberger (drums), Andrew Peters (drums), Kai Welch (keyboards, accordion), Jeff Malinowski (Alex Brumel (guitar), Charles Ray (flugelhorn, trumpet) plus guest vocalists Mary Richardson, Katie Schechter, Molly Parden and Vanessa McGowan. Pope’s high-energy style and the manner in which he embraces the lyrics and shares the meaning and mood of a song ensure he is a winner with an audience. A feel good factor ensues big style on the quirky “Can’t Stay Here”

 

Celebration of life through music could be one way to view the work of the Mariette, Georgia-born act, Pope. Until he released with his band, The Nighthawks the self-titled Ron Pope & The Nighthawks Pope had relied on getting his music to his fans via the internet and self-promoted albums. The above won much acclaim. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t earn equal acclaim, if not more with Work. Because here he is in even better form. His rich, wonderfully focuses vocals are made for Americana radio, and unlike some there is real feeling given to the lyrics when Pope steps up to the microphone. On listening to the record it was like each song was better than the last as title-cut “Work” follows the impressive “Can’t Stay Here” and with it shadowed by the superb, fiddle and harmony vocals warmed “The Last” the sequence is incredible. It can’t get any finer, or can it. Yes, it can he says! For with banjo and a dusty back road (fiddle, banjo, piano and harmony vocals) feel comes country tune “Someday We’re All Gonna Die”. I was left waiting for him to sing the lyrics to John Prine’s “Paradise”, such the easy lilting melody of the song. Exquisite in every way, boy I would love him to make an entire album as relaxed and authentic as this.

 

“Partner In Crime” leans more towards a Springsteen-esque type performance, and it too works, and feels a natural thing for him to do. Likewise goes for beautiful ballad, “The Weather”, a terrific, sensitive ballad it also has the added delight of the stunning female duet vocals of Parden assist him. So wonderful is the pairing it prompts me suggest it is the high point of the album. It has ample competition, non stronger than the stripped down to just Pope and acoustic guitar final track “Stick Around”. You will go a long way to find a more poignant and better played out performance of its kind!

 

                                                         Maurice Hope              

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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