Rodney Rice - Rodney Rice
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Rodney Rice (Self-released, 2023)

Rodney Rice

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

Singer-songwriter Rodney Rice's eponymous album is his third and his first recorded in Nashville after recording his first two in Austin. Hence, the sound and feel of this record, produced, engineered and mixed by Drew Carroll and folks at the Bomb Shelter takes a bit of a left turn from Rice's previous work. This is no small project as evidenced by the 22 musicians and singers gracing the credits. Among some of the more recognizable names are Music City's best such as drummer Dave Racine, bassists Dennis Crouch and Jack Lawrence, keyboardists Micah Hulscher and Jeff Taylor, guitarists Steve Daly and Sean Thompson.

The West Virginian native patterned his songs in the past along the lines of John Prine with deceptively simple, but often hard hitting lyrics in simple song structures, with essentially the same delivery throughout. Those descriptions hold true here as well, but the sprawling production fills in some of those gaps to mask that sameness in Rice's delivery.

Among themes about mourning deaths of grandparents and a dear pet, the troubadour life and the joys of marriage, the song that could draw the most attention is the single/video "Rabbit Ears Motel." The title alone evokes imagery, as even without seeing it, one can imagine its classic neon sign. It's a real place outside Steamboat Springs, Col. near where Rice and his wife got married. Here's the clever verse from the chorus – "Checking out when I check in/To the Rabbit Ears Motel."

He begins with the jaunty, vaudeville styled "How You Told Me So," echoing the classic country refrain "Down to my last buck, and all I hear is how you told me so." The twangy telecaster driven "Get to Where I'm Going" echoes the theme of his previous album with this line "The same shit in the same damn town." "Nothing to Lose" paints the passing of his grandparents with vivid imagery and a sadness that belies the stomping vibe. He decries the toll of the miner's life in the swaying, acoustic "Roll River Roll" and poses a series of existential questions and navigates relationships in the four songs on "Side B." These are relatable, universal themes and Rice has that special gift of delivering them effortlessly.

CDs by Rodney Rice

Rodney Rice, 2023

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