Ricky Byrd's "Sobering Times" a Message of Hope That Needs to Be Heard

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Ricky Byrd, Sobering Times

Whenever I set about to review an album or CD, I always include in my review any sonic attribute I feel compelled to mention for those of the audiophile faith, as I like to know these things myself to aid in the purchase of an album--things such as tonal and timbral accuracy, soundstage width and depth, hall sound. Instrument and performer placement, etc.

It wasn’t long after popping this shiny disc of new music from RRHF Ricky Byrd when all those things no longer really mattered; it was just simply the music that mattered. I was drawn into not only the music, but the message of each song.

Two years ago, Ricky released Clean Getaway, a rock album that spoke to addiction recovery and the hope that it would provide others who might be battling addiction themselves. I thought it was a wonderful, powerful album that brought awareness of the struggles people deal with, trying to--or wanting to--kick their addictions, and did so in a very musically, rock and roll, satisfying way.

I knew this album followed in the same vein, but I was not prepared for the overall enjoyment each song presented, one after another. Before I knew it, the album was over and I found I wrote very little in terms of critical listening and much, much more in terms of pure listening enjoyment. What struck me most as I reviewed my notes was the lyricism of each song, followed by the different rock styles I heard.

A lot of times when one writes about a specific topic that is not a lighthearted subject, it can be difficult to find words that flow and mesh together in a way that is not cliché, or where the message is not lost in lieu of a rhyme. There are so many poignant, well-crafted lines in every song on this album that it would take up far too much space to list them all here. Suffice it to say that each song has words that fit together in such ways as to have you thinking you should have heard those lines before--but you haven’t There are no clichés here, just good, solid song writing that will have you singing them to yourself long after you're done listening. And perhaps if you are someone in need of having those lines play over and over in your mind, then what could be better than that? Music should stir you, and if you can relate to the subject matter of this album, then I think it achieves what the composers set out for it to do.

What I also found fun, for me as I listened, were similarities I found on some songs to David Bowie (“Together”), The Georgia Satellites (“Tired”), the Blackhearts (“Recover Me”-okay no stretch there), with even slight verbal homages in some songs (the way they were sung in my mind anyway) to the Ramones (Someone in the background shouting “1,2,3,4” before the band kicks back in), Harry Belafonte (a line in “Tired“ -- "daylight come and me want to go home”) and Devo! (a deep-voiced “How long can this go on?”). They were probably not meant to be in any way, but I thought it fun just the same to hear them.

There are songs that are straight-up rockers, traditional sounding blues rockers, and some that just plain boogie and will keep your foot tapping till’ your ankle is sore. There are also acoustical self-reflecting songs where Ricky, sitting center stage, seems to be speaking directly to the person on the other side of the speaker, one-on-one, such as “Hear My Song” or “Just Like You,” which is the last song, perfect to close out the album. It is a sit-down-and-listen-to-what-I -have-to-tell-you song where he’s telling the listener his story and relating to him.

Ricky even does a great take on Merle Haggard’s “Bottle Let Me Down” which is a great fit on this album.

I can honestly say I can listen to this album, as we used to say in the old days, “cover to cover” over and over again. This is an album anyone can really enjoy, as there are styles of music that will appeal to everyone, and the songs are all engaging and expertly written.

The musicianship of the band is first rate. They are all consummate musicians who play together as a band should; you can feel them playing off each other in every song.

I don’t know if this album is being toured, but the band is so tight, and Ricky’s voice and style of singing/story telling is so spot on and strong here, that I can easily see it being a great show to go to live--not in a stadium show setting, or an outdoor multi-group show, but definitely in say a Beacon Theater New York or Fox Theater Saint Louis setting. I could see it billed as the Allman Bros. Band bill their shows, ”An Evening With…”

Yet the real thing here for me is this: Does this album rock? Yes! Is it well recorded? Yes! Is it one that I would listen to time and again? Yes! But more importantly, if just one person who needs it hears the music and the message of hope this album conveys, and they are encouraged by it to take the hard step to make that change, then I think all that Ricky has been through that brought him to this point where he could write these songs will have been worth it.

One thing is for certain: God never wastes a hurt, and if Ricky’s past can help others with his message of understanding and hope, while at the same time giving the rest of us great music to enjoy, then I think he is doing just what he is meant to do. What could be better than that?

 

Songs:

  1. Quittin’ Time (Again)
  2. Together
  3. Hear My Song
  4. Tired
  5. I Come Back Stronger
  6. Starlit Night
  7. Recover Me (Duet with Willie Nile)
  8. Ain’t Gonna Live Like That
  9. Pour Me
  10. The Bottle Let Me Down
  11. Life Is Good
  12. Just Like You
Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0