Burning River Ramblers score with new album

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Lakewood band Burning River Ramblers have just released their sophomore disc To Color a Fool.

Lakewood’s Burning River Ramblers describe the group as “your friendly neighborhood Alt/Rock/Funk/Reggae/Folk band.”

For many music fans, all those slashed genres are the calling card of a jam band, the worst of which take familiar sounds of said genres, remove all the good, meaty bits and leave a weightless sonic amalgam that is perfect for extended soloing and chicken dancing but has little heart or soul.

Though BRR isn’t really known for extended jams, it certainly has jam-pop band elements. Its self-titled 2011 debut, recorded in just three days, has the acoustic guitar-driven sound and jaunty rhythms and singer/songwriter vibe of alt-jam-pop stars such as the Dave Matthews Band.

But on its second album, To Color a Fool, recorded at famed Suma Recording Studio (the Black Keys, Grand Funk Railroad) the band — Conor Standish (lead vocals/rhythm guitar), Chris Rush (bass), Jesse Catania (drums/vocals), Zach Catania (lead guitar/vocals), Dave Young (keyboards) — manages to both widen and tighten its sound. The album was released last month.

Band members clearly have been working on their arranging skills with positive results. Melody is king with Young’s keyboards consistently adding nice melodic touches to the band’s catchy arena alt-pop moves and ditching much of the reggae and funk for a more rock-focused sound.

That’s not to say that fans will be throwing up the metal goat horns and headbanging to any of the disc’s dozen tunes.

Standish’s acoustic guitar still provides the base of many of the songs. Opener Don’t Wait on Me brings the jam-funk with a peppy toe-tapping groove underneath Standish’s sing-rapping. Other songs such as the title track with its soft-verse-slightly louder and catchy chorus sit more comfortably in the adult alternative category.

Songs such as the bouncy Coyote, the simmering Sad Earn and the G. Love & Special Sauce-flavored Murphy’s Law could be in regular rotation on 91.3 (WAPS-FM) the Summit.

The band dips into its blues bag on the ominous riff-driven rocker Open Road and gets all sensitive on the lightly grooving Show the Way and the ballad Where We Were At.

The disc’s longest tune, the album-closing, eight-minute I’m No Ghost, is an uptempo song that has the mark of a live show centerpiece. It slowly builds from a low-boiling groove to a big cymbal bashing coda and lets guitarist Catania stretch out a bit.

There are times when young bands try to streamline their sound and songwriting and wind up squeezing out the unique elements that made them interesting in the first place. But with To Color a Fool, the Burning River Ramblers have taken a familiar and popular AAA sound and added just enough of their own musical spices to carve out their own sound.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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