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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!
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