Randy Lee Riviere
Real Heartbreakingly Honest and Raw Native Americana.
An epiphany point in the life of Randy Lee Riviere, the man originally from Northern California but now residing in the Big Sky State, occurred when he decided to make an album using his real name, as opposed to his previous incarnation of Mad Buffalo. Not that there had been anything wrong with the former moniker, 4 albums all with a cast list of the very best musicians and producers containing songs with strong melodies and even stronger subject matters, eloquently delivered without any shadow of recrimination.
Recorded at Grammy winning producer Kevin McKendree’s Rock House studio in Franklin Tennessee, Wyoming has 13 original songs that have the benefit of granite solid contributions from McKendree’s own undoubted keyboard and guitars skills, plus the talented multi-instrumentalist James Pennebaker. Add into the mix the renowned drumming of Kenneth Blevins plus David Santos on Bass and you have one very high class backing band.
“I was initially drawn to producing this project because of the depth of Randy’s lyrics,” Kevin McKendree states. “He cares deeply about our environment, his family, Native American culture and the beauty of the Western land. His lyrics illustrate those things in a very moving and poetic way. The songs all have something ‘classic’ about them, though they are brand new. Randy made it clear to me that he wanted the music to paint a picture of the vast Wyoming landscape.
I think we accomplished that.
Musically, I personally found it impossible to categorise and fit into any accepted genre (which is a good thing from my point of view). Lyrically the subject matters contain a fair element of frustration and angst. Ostensibly, Randy is a storyteller and a very good one, at that.
Wyoming rightly kicks off with “Lots to Say” which has a chug-along tempo and Randy declaring
“I know what I need to do”
complimented by the chanted chorus of several “whoas” and Pennebaker’s sweet pedal steel.
“Our Town” slows things down with Randy pleading
“why tear it down, this old town, it’s got worn down.
This is our town, don’t let them bring it down”.
Throughout, there is a good balance between the up-tempo and slower numbers, nicely sequenced, ensuring musical variety. Further good examples of the ballad types are the very melodic “Fences”, “What I Want” with more great pedal steel and then some beautiful fiddle on “Eighth Wonder of the World”.
Of the more upbeat tracks “Keep Your Eyes on Your Station” has a catchy refrain of
“get your mind off vacation”,
“Break my Heart” contains some Keith Richards type power chords and stinging electric guitar solos from Kevin.
However, there’s a very special resonance with “Boys” which has young Yates McKendree guesting on terrific lead guitar. Randy wrote the song about his own children, so getting McKendree Junior to illustrate how the musical DNA flows to the next generation is a masterstroke in making family connections.
In “Red Rain”, which has some gentle piano and sensitive mandolin, Randy recollects time spent with his Grandpa and his tales referring to a Native American boy who lives through so many changes, eventually ending in horrific violence, at the historic Battle of the Little Big Horn, a hard rain ….. indeed a Red Rain.
It was tough deciding which was my favourite track, whilst I liked the piano & pedal intro to “Morning”, and the opening lyrics “Hey misty dawn, tell me when are you coming home”
I kept coming back to “Riverdale” with it’s punchy guitar licks and the repeated lines of
“All I have has gone for sale, there ain’t no river in Riverdale”
culminating in an apt definite, musical dead end.
The album actually concludes with the title track, a soulful, meandering instrumental that allows all the musicians to shine. Kevin McKendree has, yet again, completed another very fine job producing an obvious set of well written songs without ever letting the instrumentation to over-ride the prose.
However, for me, inviting his long time friend James Pennebaker to sprinkle his ‘pixie-dust’ on numerous stringed instruments is what magically brought the songs to life.
Forget the usual, banal lyrics of lost love and drunken rejections, there’s no baby done left me or dog dying in any of these compositions.
Randy Lee Riviere has dug deep, his consciousness empathetically highlighting the stupid, illogical, irrational decisions made by man in the misguided pursuit of the dollar bill at the inevitable cost, not just to the land but sadly to all of us, as mankind.