The new record from NYC-based singer songwriter Riley Etheridge, Jr., titled Secrets, Hope & Waiting, is a quiet study in the intimacy of acoustic music. Made up of stripped down arrangements starring a guitar and a fiddle, Secrets, Hope & Waiting is soothing and serene. It is coffee-house folk music, accessible and easy listening. There aren’t many risks being taken, but as long as that isn’t what you’re after, you’ll enjoy the record just fine.
Etheridge’s voice has a natural scratch, and though his singing often veers into Broadway territory, there’s authenticity and warmth in his vocals. You can hear him seeking out a personal connection to the listener, and the way he conveys the inner workings of his broken heart, you’ll appreciate his bare honesty. “Everything You Wanted” is a tear-jerker about being in a one-sided relationship, all take and no give. “I hope you find a better version of the truth/Someday you’ll find you had/Everything you wanted,” he sings, in a bummed out send-off.
Intentional intimacy shows in the album’s production, too, with lovely imperfections that give the feeling of listening to a live recording. There’s nothing fussy about the sound, and not a single note of this record feels over-produced. Etheridge is focused on the songwriting and the emotions he’s expressing through it. “Hush” is a raw, acoustic lullaby with a pretty melody, and “Do You Remember” has a classic rootsy folk sound. The romantic “Hope and Waiting” features dreamy harmonies, and “The Moment’s Gone” is calm and quiet, with soft, whispering percussion.
A reprise of opening track “Like a Fool” offers the album’s opening track as an instrumental version, with just a solitary piano. And one solo recording, of “Save Me From Myself”, is the record’s most revealing track, giving the listener an even closer version of Etheridge.