At this point guitarist, singer, and songwriter RICHIE KOTZEN needs no introduction. His body of work is massive, as both a solo artist, and the last couple of years with THE WINERY DOGS, who I’ve had the pleasure of seeing live twice. And the thing is, it’s not just the sounds he coaxes from his instruments (of which he plays many!), but it is his heartfelt, soulful vocal delivery that often elevates his music to another level. With a combination like that, it’s hard to lose. Now Kotzen has seen fit to share his newest solo album Salting Earth (April 14, Headroom-Inc) with us, and it is nothing short of a masterpiece.
First track “End of Earth” is also the rockingest one on the disc. Thick and rich guitar grooves are in abundance, and it’s got a chorus that stays with you long after the record ends. The perfect follow-up to this is “Thunder”, because, while not quite as heavy, it’s got some funk goin’ on in there. From here we come to “Divine Power”, s slowed-down, smoldering affair showcasing one of the many different sides of Mr. Kotzen. One of my absolute favorites is next with “I’ve Got You,” which features arguably the best hook, and a guitar/keyboard line that is so infectious that someone needs to call the CDC in Atlanta
And if that’s not enough along comes “My Rock,” a tune that hearkens back to the 70’s, with an easy-going feel. Imagine just hanging out in someone’s room, in a time before we spent every waking moment with our faces buried in our phones, just connecting and letting the music wash over us. This is the kind of stuff that never fails to make me smile, as a member of the Old Guard. One thing I truly love about Kotzen’s voice is when he lets his falsetto fly, and he certainly does just that on “This Is Life,” another throwback number where he channels the spirit and history of good music from a bygone era.
It’s time to turn up the heat for “Make It Easy” featuring Julia Lage on the background vocals. Kotzen lets ‘er rip on his guitar solo here and it’s a foot-stompin’ good time from start to finish. The pomp and swagger of “Meds” will continue to keep those feets moving for sure, while “Cannon Ball” has lyrics that perfectly summarize a lot of the uncertainty associated with relatonships; the good and the bad. “I need to know if I cannon ball I’m in friendly water.” is so fitting it practically stopped me in my tracks. And the very understated arrangement complements those lyrics nicely.
“Grammy” closes the album with a healthy dose of acoustic guitar and self-reflection. It’s very uptempo, and I really believe it has a message we can all relate to. Listen, when it’s all said and done RICHIE KOTZEN has without a doubt put out one of 2017’s best records with Salting Earth. And I’m gonna go one further and say that this is one of the finest offerings he’s ever released, period. This is one of those albums that I can listen to over and over all day while I’m at work, in the car, or anywhere. A perfect score doesn’t even begin to do it justice. You seriously need to pick it up on release day, trust and believe you’ll thank me.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM