I have a lot of friends who use their record (music) collections to define them. Many of us grew up enamored with music to the point that we scheduled gatherings around new releases or around musical themes. While the world spinned around us, we shared music, argued about it, agreed upon it. We chose friends based upon their musical choices and lost a few friends to feuds (Badmouth my music, will you? Why I oughtta…). Some of us even lost girlfriends in our quest for sonic perfection. It’s true. But through it all, we believed that of all things, music would not let us down. I still feel that way, which is why I refuse to allow the really good music to die. Which is why I wrote this review of A.J. Roach’s Revelation back in 2008 and why I pull the album out for a listen on occasion. When it is good, it is good. And this is. A flashback review, then, of an album I still think is one of those sleepers too few people found. This was originally posted on the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange (FAME) website:
We all have those days when we have three or four songs that you have to hear or the day isn’t right and I’m having one right now. The four songs I need today kick off A.J. Roach’s incredibly rootsy-but-not-really Revelation CD and if I don’t hear them it’s like I spilled coffee in the car. The roots he claims must be my roots as well because when I hear him, I dance and dream and get a little melancholy, depending upon the song.
One of the biggest uppers I’ve heard in some time is the midtempo, hand-clapping “Clinch River Blues,” the beat totally infectious and the voice straddling old-timey and country. With fiddle rhythms making my feet stomp and something called a mandochello laying out a modern-old-timey sound, I dance on the inside and, when I’ve had a bit of caffeine, laugh as well. Roach couldn’t have picked a better opening track.
The core of “Devil May Dance” is pure sixties/seventies folk/psych. Roach sweetens the voice and rides a melodic chorus of do-do-do’s into some of the best psych organ (Charlie Rowan on the C3, ladies and gentlemen! Let’s hear it for him!) and I’m back at the University of Oregon listening to David Harris speak at the Free Speech Podium in the sixties. If you really want to hear what folk/psych is because you haven’t quite been able to put a sound to it, this is an excellent example.
God loves the Wurlitzer and so do I, so it’s not a surprise that “Fashionistas” strikes a chord. A down-and-outer, it cries despair and gives Roach a chance to let loose. That voice with its slight southern accent is much more than another country voice. Much more.
I hear a bit of Pure Prairie League in “Sears & Roebuck Suit” but it’s probably just me. I have an affinity for that light country rock sound and feel that PPL had at the beginning and Roach nails it here. With a chorus of “I love you more than you love yourself and I wish it wasn’t true”, Roach says goodbye to a loved one, a son or daughter maybe, and bleeds a little on the inside. Maybe it’s someone saying goodbye to him. No matter. It makes its point perfectly and I love the sound.
These aren’t the only tracks worth hearing on this CD. It’s a solid effort by someone I should have picked up on in 2003 when he released Dogwood Winter which received much critical acclaim upon its release. I have no idea where I was then but I guarantee you it wasn’t where I should have been or I would have been espousing the talents of A.J. Roach for some four or five years by now.
You know what? I’m tired of apologizing to my friends who are so tied to what the world thinks is great musically. I have started my days with these four songs since being handed this (Thank you, A.J.!) and my days are better for it. This CD is damn good—damn good—so forgive me if I walk away when music discussions revolve around the tried and true or the flavor of the moment. I know a winner when I see one and Revelation is one. And those friends? Well, they are still friends of a sort, but if they expect me to listen to tripe about the Beatles or Floyd or whatever is supposed to be the hot thing these days and they don’t give me the courtesy of listening to my raves about Roach—well, to be honest, they can kiss my a**. I have a feeling Roach’s music will be around my place a lot longer than they will.