CD Review: Ron Pope — Atlanta; Playing Vinyl, April 28

Ron Pope
Hard Six Records

By Al Kaufman

Ron Pope is a sensitive romantic. He’s got a beard and everything. He writes straight from the heartlands anthems and lovely ballads that would make John Mayer cry. And he writes a lot of songs. Atlanta is his seventh album since 2008.

Pope grew up in Marietta, but now lives in New York, which, as the title track suggests is “a thousand miles from Atlanta.” Pope goes on to say that he is “beneath a thousand pounds of hurt.” Why? Because his girlfriend is still down south, naturally. But although Pope wears his heart on his sleeve, he is not one to pout or even get angry. “I don’t want to hold you if you want to go,” he sings on “One Grain if Sand.” See, even though she wants to break up with him, he is still thinking about her needs. Even when he gives a song like “I Do Not Love You,” he does not mean it. In the tender ballad, he explains that he does not love her for this particular or that particular thing, but loves her for everything combined. He is a sweet man that you would feel comfortable were he t0 date your little sister.

But Pope is also a talented musician. There’s more to him than meat and potatoes folk-rock with a touch of blue-eyed soul. Listen to the garage guitar on “Tears of Blood” and you’d swear you were listening to The Strokes. Contrast that with “October Trees,” which incorporates a galloping banjo with a playful fiddle.

Yes, sometimes Pope can get too overblown, such as on the bombastic “October Trees,” which includes cringe-inducing lines such as “Where is your dignity?/Where is your pride?” But often his enthusiasm works. “Sometimes” is a great big celebration of life. The perfect album closer, it offers all the love, joy, and spirituality of a big tent revival.

Ron Pope plays Vinyl with Josiah Leming and Jesse Ruben on April 28.


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