Riddle & The Stars “New Coastline” (Songs and Whispers 2016)

Here is true international Americana collaboration of the highest order. Playing together are Ben Riddle, established singer songwriter from Australia, and Bobbo and Tracy Byrnes also well established musicians, from Southern California where they called themselves The Fallen Stars. They all met while touring in Germany. This is their second album and with them on drums is Tom Bremer.

The first track is a firm and perfect start, with Ben on lead vocals. The hook line, using the title “I keep on running back to you” holds you, as does the rich driving guitar and the reference to “bright yellow sunsets” and the “wide open road.”

And so this rich, thoughtful album progresses. The second track features Bobbo, in a rocking, stomping number offering us insight, sensitivity and musicianship. In his notes about “I may never know” he refers to hidden self doubt as a theme to the song. Interesting, unusual and eventually haunting. In fact, the whole collection deserves very careful listening.

Ben’s melodic Californian voice features squarely on the love song Long Way Down, while Tracy’s solo, Apples and Knives refers to a reconciliation between love and war, and there you are, caught by her voice, the drums, a soft wailing guitar in the background and a reference to Shan Yu!

The title track, at the centre of it all, epitomises Ben, Bobbo and Tracy’s state of musical being, and for the UK as well, with its reference to “Driving down through Devon.” Those memories!

Mexican Home is a John Prine song that Bobbo used to sing with Phil Cody. Here is another remarkable track that adds to the variety of this album.  Gone is the insistent rhythm of Prine’s version. Instead, here captured with haunting harmonica and Matt Froehlich on cajon kit, is captured the true pathos of the story. On Valentine’s Day we have Tracy singing, with Bobbo on pedal steel. Again, great care has been taken with the production portraying the pleasing idea of being re-united on Valentine’s Day! Ben sings Tracks, a quiet song that, as it fades, makes the memory linger. Again, with When We Ride there is that deceptively simple idea: the joys of a road trip with someone you love. With Bobbo’s steel guitar backing and Tom Bremer (seasoned session musician from Orange County, California) on lead guitar (so good). There’s that summative statement: “We’ve got the strength and we’ve got each other.” Here is a band of musicians with guests included who work really well together.

So to the last track: When the Weight is Gone. There is more to this song than first appears. Listen to the first line: “You head to your little room again..” and take in the reference to that road once more in the lyrics.  It sums up everything that the band is and hopes for. You can sense in their music the care, connectivity and thoughtfulness of the three musicians.

Author: Dave Clarke

I have always loved Americana music, even before it had a name. I've been a teacher (secondary and tertiary) all my professional life.

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