Randy Forte – Chas Randall
The presence of country music on Chas Randall isn’t profound but, when Forte turns his attention in that direction, the results are uniformly successful. “Six Beers Away (From Crying Over You)” has some traditional country qualities, particularly the steel guitar, but Forte avoids any of the style’s pitfalls or standard tropes by balancing a personal side against the idea of drinking away a lost love. Forte brings enough of his own point of view to the performance to set it apart from the typical feel of such songs. He follows it up with “Living with Yesterdays Tomorrow” and it’s a bracing combination of guitar driven light rock with some of the album’s most intelligent writing. The plethora of guests helping Forte realize his creative vision for Chas Randall, among them Marcia Ramirez, John Louis Richardson, and Gary Burnette, among others, enhance these songs a great deal.
The shuffle sound of “Rollin’” has a rollicking tilt to the performance drawing you in from the first. This is one of my personal favorites on Chas Randall; it isn’t an ambitious number, but very entertaining from the first and set apart from the pack thanks to the near jangling interplay of its various instruments. “You Don’t Love Me, Like I Love You” has a great tempo for its subject matter and message. It sounds like a relatively simple, straight-forward tune, but there’s a lot of nuance in the way the musicians bring this tune to life. It’s interesting, as well, how Forte counterbalances an unhappy lyric with a singing performance that’s improbably cheery. There’s a great lead guitar rave up/solo in the song’s second half putting a colorful exclamation point on the song. The quietest number on Chas Randall, “Best Friends”, has a more overtly commercial edge than the preceding numbers, but don’t mistake that for pandering to listeners. It’s a deeply felt song built around acoustic guitar and there’s some lead playing serving as a spot on counterpoint for Forte’s voice.
Forte’s writing talents shine even brighter with the song “My Love Away” and rarely has a song about dissolution and despair sounded so assertive, even sprightly. Much of its flair comes from stinging lead guitar licks opening the tune and recurring throughout, but the song’s sweep gains added push thanks to Forte’s wide open singing. He gives so much of himself to this tune. The delicate, folky strains of “When the River Swallows Me” never get in a hurry and I’m thankful for that – it’s one of the best moments on Chas Randall and has a lyric smacking of pure poetry. Forte gives it the serious treatment it deserves but without ever slipping into unwieldy dramatics that render the song overwrought. Forte has likely reached the peak of his songwriting powers thus far with his latest album Chas Randall and there’s something here for everyone, particularly impassioned music lovers.
Clay Burton approved by Sebastian Cole