Richie Tipton – Basin In The Rock

 Richie Tipton – Basin In The Rock

Richie Tipton – Basin In The Rock – EP Review

Reaching back in time here!  I tells ya…sometimes artists/bands need a poke in the ribs to remind them of what they’re supposed to be doing with their lives…which is…you know…that whole making of the music thing.  Basin In The Rock by Richie Tipton came out back in 2012…and to be fair, he has released another record since this one here in review today…an EP called Beat Up Pushed Around in 2014.  And if I’m being REALLY fair, I shouldn’t be throwing stones in my own glass house here…I’m pretty sure that 2014 was the last time that I released any kind of music myself as well.  The point is – it’s been a while!  If I had the knack for this music thing that Richie has, I’d be making more music than writing about it.

Dude’s got a rad style & sound that I think a lot of people out there would dig on.  He’s kinda like what you’d imagine The Beatles might sound like if you left’em out in the sun too long.  Richie’s got an Alt-Indie sound that works really well in his favor…seems very natural to him…organic-like, ya feel me?  Undeniable traces of Pop & Rock and twinges of Country/Americana/Gospel/Blues in here too…Tipton really fits right in with bands like Golden Smog, Sparklehorse, and perhaps a less electro-inclined Grandaddy…maybe even an early-years croonin’ version of Tom Waits when he first began so many years ago…those bands & artists that sit in the offshoots of the mainstream, offering up rare melodic gems & songs so much more unique, engaging, sincere, and rewarding to listen to as a result.

What I really love about this entire record is that, most people would hear a set of songs like this and the artistic craft of Tipton’s songwriting, and fall victim to the charming way he brings these tunes to life – but I can’t imagine they’d see it coming at first.  Richie may take a little bit of time to grow on some people – which is fair to say of just about every artist out there – but in truth, he does work with a more niche sound, despite these songs having genuine hooks that’ll likely resonate with a lot of you listening.  What makes this work so strongly…what makes these songs connect…is the confidence that Richie brings to each and every performance you’ll find on this record.  It’s like no one out there has ever told him he’s a little bit weird, you know what I mean?  Now whether or not that’s true, is almost beside the point at this time – the way the songs have come out reveal a performer & artist that has shut out the world around him in an effort to get his true self onto these songs – and man, that sounds good to me!

Armed with a whole bunch of musical cohorts enabling him in this effort, Richie Tipton and the talents in the studio surrounding him have created a record that really has the level of underground cool you want to hear.  Love the way that “Bleeding Heart” opens the record with such a sleek design and interesting textures…dude actually has quite a few similarities to songwriters like Mark Lanegan, though a totally different style of sound at the end of the day.  Guitar solo on this cut is absolutely killer as well…loving the piano, the violins…and vocally, I think you’ll find that Richie’s theatrical approach gets stronger & stronger as it plays.  If he wanted to, he could be a dead-ringer for Bon Jovi…I have no doubt that potential is there…but you know what they say, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ – and thankfully he’s responsible enough to not go down that road.  Instead, he adds a distinctive artistic approach that adds tension, drama, beauty, and bizarreness together into powerfully expressive results.  The violins count for quite a bit…you combine those with the haunting way that Tipton sings this tune, and you’ll find that he’s definitely got something that captures your interest quickly – and he’ll keep it firmly from here on in.  If you dig what you hear in “Bleeding Heart,” you’ll have no problem at all sticking with Richie Tipton’s Basin In The Rock right to the very end…solid first experience for sure.

I think that…for me personally…I’m probably going to end up feeling like “Laundromat Heart” is going to become my favorite from this EP; I have a real soft spot for songs like this one.  There’s an extraordinary rawness in the beauty that Tipton is creating that really works perfectly…it’s what makes songs like “Laundromat Heart” come out so spectacularly sweet, sincere, and completely real.  The added swagger that Richie brings to the microphone here counts for a lot as well; when he’s not giving you the straight melody, he’s mixing it up by giving you a ton of character & humble sound in his voice.  “Laundromat Heart” is that rare kind of love song that reaches into metaphorical terrain you wouldn’t typically associate with the sentiment or style, giving it the indie-appeal that has proven to connect to so many hearts, minds, and ears listening out there in the world, my own included.  Shifting the sound to a more Lou Reed or Velvet Underground like style just enough to notice – that inherent hazy beauty comes shining through powerfully on “Laundromat Heart.”  I think it’s a brilliantly written song and executed with pure heart.  It’s got a core built on the roots of great Pop for sure – especially when you factor in the sweetness of the harmonies in the backing layers & chorus – but recognize that hooks that work dear readers, dear friends – “Laundromat Heart” has that good-good Alt-Indie sweetness you can’t deny.  I might be a sucker for a great melody…but if Richie’s willing to supply, can you blame me for taking him up on it?  “Laundromat Heart” is the kind of sweetness my ears crave day-in & day-out.  Kind of like The Arcade Fire-meets-Bob Dylan here sprinkled with a bit of something decisively sweeter like The LA’s…whatever the recipe is, it’s a magical one that works, 100% – I couldn’t get enough of this one!

If I’m going with the single though…I’d probably have chosen “War Kills” as one of the strongest gateways into Basin In The Rock…although I suppose whatever decision was made as far as singles go was probably made back in 2012 when the EP came out…I’m probably a bit late on my advice here.  He’s almost dipping into territory occupied by the Foo Fighters at their most low-key & chill on this tune, while still flashing roots that trace back even further in Rock’s history to the 70’s & 80’s.  Dude DELIVERS though folks…make no mistake, however you end up hearing what Tipton creates or who you might feel you could compare him to, he’s focused and hitting the mark of his intentions time & again throughout this record.  “War Kills” has a remarkably relaxed vibe and a true sparkle in its appealing sound that should capture a lot of people’s attention…but when it comes to the execution, you can tell the man brings intensity & passion to his music no matter how chill it may seem.  You slide right into this slice of Basin In The Rock with ease – there’s not a single doubt in my mind that the overall accessibility of Tipton’s music is at its highest here…lots of universal appeal in a song like “War Kills.”  A lot of the cuts on this record have him phrasing his vocals in really clever ways, often drifting from one line into the next, sometimes straight-ahead, sometimes falsetto, sometimes indefinably doin’ his own damn thang.  No matter what he seems to attempt, there’s always a way in to the heart of his ideas & melodies…a genuinely mesmerizing quality or two that’ll pull you right in to listen.  He might be singing about blood & war here…but for whatever reason, maybe purely for the interests of contrast, “War Kills” is probably likely one of the easiest songs to get into that you’ll stumble across in the independent music-scene.

At over six & a half-minutes long, “Gatlinburg” is the lengthiest tune you’ll find on the EP.  Swaying slowly, waxing poetically, and musing on “Gatlinburg” and other places on the map, Tipton takes the level of his performance up yet another notch in confidence.  He’s got a Pete Yorn-ish like appeal on this song…cool without having to even try being cool, know what I mean?  “Gatlinburg” has him really flexing those vocal chords and going after big moments – and believe me, you’ll hear’em when he hits’em.  Personally, I’ve got no beef with the way he sings this one or the song in general, even if he’s broken one of my golden rules by using the words ‘honky tonk,’ I’m willing to look past it in favor of the majority of this idea, which works.  Like…listen to the verse that happens right around the two-minute mark…it’s purely subtle brilliance – and outright charming, as I mentioned previously.  Dude’s a great songwriter when it comes right down to it, and you get to hear that in its fullest dose on “Gatlinburg.”  Chances are it’s gonna crawl along at a pace too slow for some out there…and even I’d admit that on the inside of four-minutes, maybe a song like this would stand a better chance of keeping everyone out there engaged.  That being said, Tipton makes sure to make time for musicianship, and he really does have a ton of highlight moments of his own as far as the vocals are concerned on “Gatlinburg.”  Made it an easy trade for me personally…I’ll take a couple more minutes of a song if you’re going to reveal a few more cards that have been hiding up your sleeves – I think ultimately, you get that from Tipton on this tune.

No matter what song you end up listening to, there is ALWAYS something hugely redeeming to hear.  “Been And Loved” almost borders on the edge of something you could imagine The White Stripes or Jack White would come up with, albeit probably executed more smoothly & artistically here on Richie’s record.  The point is, there is always a mad amount of different hooks on display within each song that you’ll find on Basin In The Rock; even if a tune like “Been And Loved” might reach more closely towards a Rock style you’re more familiar with, he still finds incredibly insightful ways to twist the entire sound just enough to really make each of these moments on this EP impressively reflect his own authenticity.  Guy’s a relentlessly expressive singer…I know that I’ve harped on the confidence thing a whole bunch, but you really can’t yield these kind of noteworthy results without really going after it, you feel me?  Tipton’s a downright Alt-Indie-Rock champion when it comes to what he can do as a singer; obviously unafraid to go right after his wildest ideas with the same amount of commitment you’d find in songs where he knows he’s right in his wheelhouse.  Weirdness is the man’s wheelhouse really – and even though the base of “Been And Loved” is rooted inside of a comfortable brand of Rock that doesn’t test the threshold too savagely – what he brings to the microphone always gives his songs a whole new dimension that’s certainly worth your time in listening.  I haven’t commented too much on the actual musicianship & instrumentation of this record – but bass-lines are perfection on “Been And Loved,” accompanied by vibrant guitars and thoroughly crispy drums…the meat & potatoes done RIGHT.

And of course, you can’t make a real Rock record without having “Beautiful Satan” show up somewhere right?  The final track on Tipton’s EP will definitely make you do a double-take…I don’t know what most of you typically associate with Satan as far as the sound of music goes, but it’s rare to find him lurking in the delicate throes of a piano/atmosphere tune I’d imagine.  LISTEN to the way Richie sings though will ya?  Say what you want about the actual sound of his voice – like it is with all singers, some will love it, some might not – but when it comes to HOW he sings, the man is 100% confident and committed to every single moment he’s on the microphone.  You play it that way dear readers, dear friends…you’ll likely find me climbing aboard the bandwagon pretty damn quick, just like I have here with Tipton’s EP.  Artists like Richie Tipton that embrace individuality & creativity in an effort to create uniqueness like you’ll hear in the boldly bare-assed “Beautiful Satan” deserve the support – they earn it by being staunchly different than the status quo of music and by giving us music that’s truly new to experience.  Is “Beautiful Satan” gonna be a hit on your radio-dial?  Of course not!  Nor is an artist like Tipton foolishly expecting results like that…you know what the score is when you create a song like “Beautiful Satan” – it’s not gonna be for everyone, and that’s more than fine…the world keeps on turnin.’  What people won’t possibly see coming on this final track is the fact that it’s actually the calmest song on the entire record, and arguably one of the most gorgeous.  Take THAT “Beautiful Satan” – your devilishly typical sounds are not required here.  Instead, you get a warm final glow and nearly a-cappella performance from Richie, with a stoic organ in the mix and a hint of piano here & there…other than that & some scattered sounds scratching in the background of the mix for your attention – it’s largely on the shoulders of Tipton and his vocals to make this last song work.  I think it comes so far out of left field in a way, that “Beautiful Satan” definitely has the impact of shock-value, but almost in reverse if that makes any sense…you’re shocked by the quaintness in the vibe, the pleasantness in the demeanor, the low-key-ness of it all…it’s that kind of shocking as opposed to some overblown & overhauled ending.

Well-played Richie, well-played brother.

Now get back to work & get back in the studio where you belong will ya?

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