Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders – Go By Myself – Album Review
I gotta say…just when I figure that I’ve heard the best of this guy, he comes back better each time. Billy Roberts ladies and gentlemen…surely you recognize the name around the ol’ sleepingbagstudios music-saloon by now…that guy that seems to never give up on music, or vice-versa…same guy that always brings those Rough Riders around with him wherever he goes…you know the one.
And when I say better each time, I’m largely referring to the very first track on the new album, Go By Myself and how it all sets the tone for the brand-new music from Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders. Right away on “Beat Down And Broken” I was actually completely-impressed; the atmosphere is a lurking-one with a looming presence of personal-demons & doom. I like the emotion in Billy’s performance on this one…his vocals go from a singing-voice to a whispered one as the piano & guitars haunt the melody in the background. “Beat Down And Broken” is a sensational-opening to an album and really grinds along with a captivating-but-lethargic energy that almost makes the first song sounds like the last one they’ll ever record before they all pass out. Were it not for the lively guitar-solo towards the end of the song…you might even assume these guys were sleep-jamming…or that this very song was only a dream conjured-up by your own imagination. Fantastic start…the kind that’s gonna be a tough one to top later on…loved “Beat Down And Broken.”
Even “Hard Times” seemed to pack a little more punch in its step than I remember Billy Roberts rocking with before…it has the sound of a real classic-rock song. Everything you might read or hear about the man, the myth, the legend might tell you to keep ten-feet back…but if I didn’t know better, the party-atmosphere in a song like “Hard Times” is the kind that really brings the Rock out in everyone…so he might just have to deal with it. Excellent harmonica, guitars and overall hook – “Hard Times” is real-rock with that perfect amount of attitude, snarl & swagger you can’t help but love. With a tinge of the psychedelic, “Hard Times” rips through both a rock-side to it and lightens-up melodically for its verse, making for a good mix.
“Driving” is a mixed-one for me. I know I like it…though I might not even be completely sure myself as to why, or whether or not it would be something that someone else out there could potentially dig on. I seem to really like the innocence of this subtle-rock tune…it swings & sways with melody and a lighter-vibe that you’d usually expect from BR & the RR’s…but I like it. I think if anything…for those familiar with their music, it’s just a little unexpected…pleasant somehow; the saxophone was another unique sound into the mix of Go By Myself…it seems as if our favourite musical-outlaw is branching out on this new record, and I dig that too. It’s a playful energy that he hasn’t really explored before this that I can remember, which gives it a unique placement in the Roberts’ catalogue.
Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders then tell you all about how they’ve “Seen It All Before” on the track to follow.
Oh yeah Billy? I’ll raise your ‘seen it’ with a ‘said it’ – I’m pretty sure I covered the map on my thoughts on the lead-single from Go By Myself when I reviewed “Seen It All Before” a couple months back as the album was getting ready to roll-out to you all. So I could say it all again about “Seen It All Before” but I definitely SAID it all before in the past review – check it out by clicking here. That being said…still think it’s a solid tune and it fits in perfectly right here as the fourth-cut on the record.
Now…what I don’t know…is if I have an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to the next song, “Who Do You Think You Are?” What I do know…is that this is by far and away one of my favourite tracks by Billy…for it’s incredible chorus alone, I’d take this one up against the rest of’em pretty confidently – this is an awesome, awesome tune. I really think it’s the vocals in this song that do it for me…so real props to Billy for nailing it here…I love this kind of alternative anti-energy that works so well with this style of melody in rock…big thumbs-up for “Who Do You Think You Are?”
But here’s the thing Billy…pull up a chair my man and take this to heart; what you’re doing on “Kayla” is nothing short of incredible. I can only imagine this guy…Billy…a stoic-figurehead of real-rock…somewhere in the back of his mind wondering whether or not he can truly pull of the emotional, heartfelt ballad…and I’m here to say enthusiastically, YES…yes you can my friend.
Overall I think “Who Do You Think You Are?” marks a shift in the album towards a more wide-appeal and all-inclusive, intimate nature that lasts throughout the duration of “Kayla” and “Forget About Me” as well. But again, to be truthful and honest…if Billy is out there somewhere and NOT considering “Kayla” to be amongst the BEST songs he’s ever written…then he’s a lot crazier than I have ever given him credit to be. The song is STUNNING from beginning to end, truly reflecting the beauty of its sentiment and subject in the lyrics. The song’s melody is so strong it can bench 200lbs without a spotter and the short guitar-solo is a wonderful addition to the solid beat & piano-led tune. Really can’t say enough about it – I think this song really shines on Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders in the finest of lights.
“Forget About Me” is a great transitional song…I mean, let’s face it…he might be taking the band into more melodic textures in the music here throughout the middle of Go By Myself – but he can’t hold back the rock inside him for long. “Forget About Me” brings a little of the energy back to the record and music, but just enough so that it steps us out of the brilliance of “Kayla” gently. “Forget About Me” and its placement are the unsung-hero aspects of this record…this cut is the right amount of everything and warms us up again perfectly for Billy to get it rocking as you knew he would sooner or later on “From The Ashes.” And with synth-organs and piano-keys firing away, this tune steps it up in more traditional BR-style…very similar again in sound to that of Canadian hard-rock band The Headstones. Solid-tune that takes the cue to start rocking from “Forget About Me” and rolls with it in “From The Ashes.”
“Gone To The Dogs” is the second-single from Go By Myself and also another tune that we’ve reviewed in the past. Now…you check my thoughts on this one here in our previous review…but let me just say this in regards to “Gone To The Dogs” and “Seen It All Before” being the singles…Billy…my man…how MANY of these songs are you planning to release? I think both the released singles have their charm and represent the overall sound of Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders extremely well…but MAN…if I haven’t heard at LEAST four or five strong competitors to be singles throughout listening to this album already…I mean, shit…it must’ve have been TOUGH to choose this time around – honestly! What a wealth of material that has enough hook & pull to be single-worthy on this record…he’s truly out-written my expectations and in my opinion, nearly tossed out two softballs at us with the first singles released! “Gone To The Dogs” is still a fantastic tune to me…it might just be that there are so many new songs for me to dig that the ones I’ve heard have paled slightly, but I don’t think so. The singles are both stand-up tunes, but I’m really loving the others I’m finding on this album even more.
The hypnotic, slow-rock of the album’s title-track “Go By Myself” has that hazy Lou Reed energy down perfectly. This cut grinds along slowly under the weight added from the extra chip that rides on the shoulders of this song. Taking the energy down into more melancholy-melodies for this tune and the album’s ending in “Goodbye Old Friend;” I like how the atmosphere on this entire album has really explored a range of tempos and ideas – I think Billy Roberts has really come out with a solid album here, wall-to-wall. The background slide-guitar sounds and general plodding-tempo of “Go By Myself” really feels like the rockstar singing it is weary and damaged…but determined and certainly still in this fight to the end.
“Goodbye Old Friend” sends the album off with another of the best-written melody-lines on the entire album. A real highlight to end it on…this is the most emotional we’ve heard Billy allow himself to be upon a recording…the man at his most vulnerable and revealing. A truly beautiful song that proves his heart beats much stronger than he’d ever admit to or allow us to believe – “Goodbye Old Friend” is a fantastic achievement for Wild-Bill & his band…it’s a whole other side of them than we’ve ever heard before; as is much of this record.
So…now that we’re at the end, for those of you that still haven’t heard the record – go DO that; but SPOILER ALERT – the singles and much of the story behind the man will have you believing that you might simply be in for another rock-record…and that’s simply not the case here this time around. Go By Myself is an extremely cohesive album that tells personal-stories through accessible hooks and brilliantly written-melodies – it’s absolutely some of the finest work from Billy Roberts And The Rough Riders that I’ve heard so far.
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