Santa Cruz by Rivers Garcia is a timepiece made of his own doing where he wrote and arranged everything, as well as played every instrument, produced, and engineered himself at his home near Toronto. But it is an Americana-based album about being on the open road in America, and tells stories of how he fell in love with the places he visited, mostly in the South and Southwest of the U.S. The album centers mostly around that so it is the loosely based concept of it that intrigues but also introduces the world to a great artist who never meant to commercially release his music.
Garcia is also a producer and his influences range from Neil Young to The Ramones, which produces a punk at heart with folk and acoustic leanings that outweigh everything and the result is a roots rock sort of sound that is undeniably good. The album appropriately kicks off with “Drive” and even has the sound of a car igniting and then going through the radio dial to land on this song, and once the guitar hits you, it’s instantly familiar sounding. I can’t put my finger on where I’ve heard this guitar riff before, but more importantly the song is excellent.
After hearing the first track a few times and being reminded of something familiar, I was also reminded of Neil Young and feel Garcia to be in great company with his influences being well felt. “Mustang Blues” is a love song about hanging out in Santa Cruz in the backseat of his car, and it also has much familiarity about it, but that might just be because it’s done very traditionally. This is another good track, with harmonica and piano featured, as well as a strong guitar solo to wake up the quiet vocal effect.
Things get downright rainy in the intro but then sunny as the album moves more west, with “Bella Surfista” hitting the spot with a sublime five minutes and thirty-five seconds worth of excellence. It is at this point which the album is undeniably good, and you want to hear the rest. “Stick Shift” continues with more of the same, as there is no filler to be heard as-of yet, and none to be sensed either. But “Blues and Sympathy” goes much deeper than any track thus far with a more haunting style tune with a Beatles-like feel to it.
“Clean” is a lot of fun and goes very well with the next track “Palm Trees, West L.A.” The two seem to go together as if made that way as where “Got It All Wrong” falls somewhere between an acoustic pop love ballad and another Beatles influenced song with a heavy relationship involved lyric. And “Santa Cruz” being the title track and already mentioned in one of the songs is up next with more rain at the intro and probably one of the album’s best tracks. “Jet Plane,” “Ideology” and “California” all check out well in closing on what is overall a distinctively refreshing debut release.