By Al Kaufman
Riley Etheridge Jr is one of those man’s man type of guys. One can picture him behind the wheel of a Chevy pick-up, or raking his yard. He doesn’t seem like a leaf blower type of guy. He rakes, gets calluses, then goes in and eats some meat and potatoes, and maybe a small vegetable side, but not too much. He’s really about the meat and potatoes.
Etheridge’s music is the same way. Although he calls New York City home now, he cut his teeth in South Carolina and spent more than a few years in Louisiana. It makes for good ingredients for his bluesy-country-rock gumbo.
Slide guitar powers his title track, which talks of going home to the bayou. He sings words that many of us have felt when returning home for holidays. “Going home is like a powder keg/Just takes one spark for it to blow.” Simple and to the point, yet full of the wisdom of a man who has lived long enough to have some grizzle in his voice.
Etheridge brings a slow, groovy, finger-snapping coolness to “Scene of the Crime,” complete with some cool blues harp and horns. And Willis Akan Ramsey’s “Northeast Texas Woman,” in which he points out that in Texas the women “with cast iron curls and aluminum dimples” grow on trees, is a perfect love letter to women of the Lone Star State; equal parts admiration and objectification.
“She’s Ready Already” has a nice Cajun flavor, with great help from the harp and strings, but references to the New Orleans Saints and the girl wearing her “party beads” seem a bit forced. And it may still be too soon to say a New Orleans girl is “as strong as a hurricane.”
The last third of the CD unfortunately settles into one of those country-soft rock grooves that made the Eagles so popular way back when. It would be pleasant enough to listen to while watching a sunset with a girl and a beer, but Etheridge is at his best when he gets his rock on.
Riley Etheridge Jr plays Smith’s Olde Bar‘s Atlanta Room on April 14. Tickets are $7 at the door.