Dry River review…August 13, 2017….

DRY RIVER

PRAYIN’ FOR THE RAIN

LIFT THIS STONE–DRY RIVER BLUES–LOST IN THE WORLD–BREAKFAST–DIVIDED FOR LOVE–HILDEGARD–DEATH COMES KNOCKIN’–FREE MAN–LOVESICK BLUES–LAY DOWN AND DIE–MAKIN’ BISCUITS–SHINE YOUR LIGHT ON ME–TRYIN’–WHO AM I

“Prayin’ For The Rain” is the second album from Dry River, a blues band that calls the area near the banks of the Santa Ana River their home base.  For those not geographically-inclined, that river bed, were it not for reclaimed waste water, would be dry most of the time.

This album was recorded in guitarist and lead vocalist Oliver Althoen’s home studio in Orange, CA.  Joining him on this excursion are Dave Forrest on the harp, Joel Helin on bass, and Ruben Ordiano on drums.  The cool thing about this set is that half of the cuts are acoustic, and the other half electric.   Thus, the fellows draw from their influences which include Robert Johnson and Skip James from the pre-WWII era, and guys like Gary Primich on the contemporary front.  An acoustic number leads off, entitled “Lift This Stone right off of my heart,” and serves as a shout-out to all the BS in the world today, making it so “cold and dark.”  One of the electric cuts finds our hero at odds over the loss of a lover, and feels “Lost In The World, like a pilgrim in an unholy land.”  But, love comes in strange places—like, over “Breakfast, with a woman two-thirds my age, with eyes like thunder and a smile like the falling rain!”

The band’s Skip James/Son House influence can be heard in their songs dealing with the blues’ darkest side.  “Death Comes Knockin” is a fine example, as a condemned man vows one day to “find my rest,” as Dave blows mournfully in the background.

We had two favorites.  Paula Gabriel adds backing vocals to “Free Man,” an acoustic tune dealing with looking for that special love, comparing it to a “cage that can hold me.”  And, the set closes on a positively-philosophical note with “Who Am I?”  Herein, Oliver ponders virtually all of life’s questions and quandaries,  realizing that “you can know the whole world just by looking inside yourself.”

With their use of traditional blues instrumentation and formats, Dry River has crafted a set of honest, powerful music that is literally the last shade of blues before they turn black.  “Prayin’ For The Rain” brings together the band’s themes of death, desperation, and redemption!  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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