Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Roys – New Day Dawning

By: W.J. Hallock

The Roys – New Day Dawning

Label: Rural Rhythm
Released: August, 2012

Stop for just a minute and think of all the acts in bluegrass and country music that have been made up of family members….. the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers, the Whites, the Isaacs, the Stanley Brothers, the Dillards, the Rice Brothers, the Gibson Brothers and so many more….. Now add all the duet partners you can think of into the mix, and it gets even more interesting! Vince and Patty Loveless, Porter and Dolly, Conway and Loretta, Alison and Brad Paisley, Tammy and George, and who could forget Lonzo and Oscar and Homer and Jethro!

Musical pairings like this have been known to be magical, historic, whimsical and awe inspiring. Some CDs, like Larry Sparks’ “40,” have been all duets, or more than one guest star, on a song. When two or more really good singers get together in harmony, the grand total is almost always more than the sum of the parts. The sharing, and the give and take, seem to bring out the best in everyone involved.

Brother and sister duo, Lee and Elaine Roy, The Roys, seem to be right on the verge of placing themselves into the elite company of those named above with their second effort on Rural Rhythm Records, “New Day Dawning.” The first single they have released, “Still Standing,” written by Elaine and Lee, has all the markings of a hit record. It’s definitely one of the two best songs presented here. The other being the tender story of a family having lost their patriarch, “Daddy To Me,” which was written by Lee and Brandon Rickman. A very touching song….. What I find most intriguing is that all the songs on this EP are either written or co-written by Elaine and/or Lee. Not only do they sing great together, but they write as well as they sing. Each song is special in it’s own way. Nice!

Their first CD was produced by the Roys and Andy Leftwich, and they chose Skaggs Family Studio and most of Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder, for that endeavor. Lee and Elaine again chose the same team for this trip to the studio, and a good choice it was. The musicianship is top notch and spot on! Dobro “addict” that I am, it was especially nice to hear Randy Kohrs playing soft, pretty and warm…. but, don’t worry, his hot licks were present, too! With Mark Fain on bass, Cody Kilby on guitar, Justin Moses on banjo, Steve Brewster on percussion, Jeff Taylor on accordion and Luke Skaggs on baritone guitar, all Andy had to do was add his fiddle and mandolin to make a close to perfect studio band for Elaine and Lee to sing to.

Lee and Elaine pretty much split the lead singing duties 50/50, with the other sibling singing the harmony part. They have that familial closeness that you have to be born with, and they are each solid singers, no matter which part they’re singing. But, I wonder if something different should be done with their vocals….. as good as they are, they tend to sound generic. They seem to be following a formula. As an example, you always KNEW it was the Everly Brothers the second they started singing. Phil and Don’s voices were mixed very close to the same volume, and the sound came out BIG, with both individual voices becoming one unique entity. Technology is a wonderful thing these days, sounds can be enhanced and new techniques can be invented in the studio that can still be used on live shows. All it takes is the time, the effort and the experimental desire to change things up. There has to be a way for the Roys to individualize their vocal sound.

With all the PR the Roys have garnered with their first CD, “Lonesome Whistle,” and the resulting exposure from their inclusion in the cast of the PBS aired DVD “Pa’s Fiddle, The Music Of America,” the Roys are building a big head of steam to push their career along. Opportunities are presenting themselves daily for advancement, and life on the road, appearing at concerts and festivals, is becoming their new “norm.” This second EP is more than important…… it’s vital to their long term goals. This is not the time for them to stumble! Don’t hold my feet to the fire, but, I believe it was Glenn Frey, of the Eagles, who so wisely said that a musician gets twenty five years to write his first record, and only six months to write the second.

Lee and Elaine are writing lots of songs, GOOD songs, together or with others, all the time. A lack of material when it comes time to record shouldn’t ever be a problem. But, maybe timing is…. On this EP, they have three songs about family loss… “Daddy To Me,” “Grandpa’s Barn” and “Living Scrapbook.” All are slow, and though they are all good songs, listener likeability and attention span comes into play. Is that listener going to stay “hooked” when three out of seven songs are so introspective? They nailed it when they wrote “Still Standing,” and I’ll bet they have more up tempo songs they could have tapped. Some of Elaine’s sassiness would have helped liven things up a bunch!

Lee and Elaine are very lucky in that they have the freedom to produce themselves. But, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to let someone else do the thinking. Andy Leftwich is a very talented guy…. but he’s not Ricky Skaggs…. or Carl Jackson…. or a producer of that caliber. He’s still learning his craft, just like Elaine and Lee. Those big time producers get paid to think three or four jumps ahead. They already know all the studio tricks, they know before the first note is played what needs to happen, and when. They have “ears” trained in knowing which song is going to be a hit, and which ones aren’t. They will be thinking song sequence for the end product before you can tune your guitar for the very first recording session. And if they know of a song, by someone else, that will give YOU a hit record, they’re not afraid to tell you about it. They deal in honesty, because playback speakers don’t lie. They know how to listen for a singer’s weak spots, and fix them. They push the envelope on a singer’s assets. And when a pair of singer’s are at a point where they can’t afford to stumble, a top of the line producer is worth his weight in gold.

This is quality music, sung by talented singers and played by fine musicians. The song-writing tells me that The Roys have a bright future in front of them. Is this record perfect? No….not in my humble opinion. But, I will say… yep, this one needs to be in your collection. It will be a fine base line to compare against their next EP….. which I fully expect to be even better than their first two releases!


No comments:

Post a Comment

ALL comments are moderated and must be approved by the administrator of this blog. SPAM Comments, HATE Comments and general dis-respect will be ignored and deleted. Opposite opinion comments will be posted if presented in a polite and professional approach.

Subscribe Now: RSS Reader