R.W. Roldan releases new single “Falling Star”
Critics in mainstream country music have been doing a real disservice to their genre lately in focusing too much on the establishment and not giving enough attention to the independent forces that are driving scenes around the nation. Motivated by a sound other than what Nashville knows will sell out arenas, these indie country artists have been bubbling up in the underground for a while again, much like they did right before country experienced an explosion in hybrid, crossover successes in the 1990’s. You would think that this would have critics from coast to coast a lot more excited, but one has to wonder if the establishment is feeling a little bit threatened by the passion and skill that this new legion of songwriters presents to the status quo. Leading the charge on the west coast is none other than accomplished singer/songwriter R.W. Roldan, whose new single “Falling Star” is managing to bust through the suffocating ceiling gripping his scene and getting the attention of college and specialty radio airplay in a way thought impossible by a lot of journalists a couple of years ago.
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On his first two albums In California Country and Where We Come From, R.W. Roldan offered us a very elaborate look into what the so-called Bakersfield sound feels like in 2018, and to the surprise of many, both purists and more recent innovators in the style gave their collective approval, and Roldan’s career has been on a steady ascent towards the mainstream ever since. But to be frank, I don’t think the music press has given the same respect and consideration that Roldan rightfully deserves until this most recent release in “Falling Star.” What sets apart this single from his previous work is possibly its extremely polished presentation and pop harmony that could easily compete with anything that other crossover groups and solo artists are coming up with, or maybe it’s just that critics are finally coming to their senses. Whatever the case may be, it’s long overdue that this man be in the bigger conversation about where country music is going in the next decade and who the major players are going to be.
Instead of approaching “Falling Star” in the expected way, i.e. employing every tried commercial strategy to make the track sound as similar to other thematically retrospective country songs, R.W. Roldan crashes through our stereo speakers with a raw originality that sounds more like a backyard performance than it does a jingle for Levi’s. And that’s not to say that this song isn’t accessible to the casual country fan’s taste, because in reality this is a song that I can see anyone who loves acoustic music really going for. It is to say, however, that this is intellectually stimulating music that doesn’t try and play down to what it thinks its audience is going to want to hear. It just presents the vision of the artist, and in Roldan’s case, it’s a vision of pastoral guitars and gritty countrified contemplation that doesn’t care what record labels or music critics think very much. And if that isn’t the most refreshing direction and artist could have, I don’t know what is.
Photo Credit: Myke Wilken