CD Review: “Backroads” – Darrell & Dawn Ritchie

CD Review: “Backroads” – Darrell & Dawn Ritchie

ritchiesOne of the perks of writing for a music site such as this is that you make friends in some interesting places. One of these friends is Darrell Ritchie, who sings professionally with his wife, Dawn, and also works as a freelance writer. Although we’ve never met face-to-face, Darrell and I have had many a conversation over Facebook about the music business and our own success and struggles within it.

At his request, I am writing a review of their most recent offering, Backroads, a 5-song EP released last year. Darrell has [bravely] asked that I give an honest reaction to this project and not hold anything back. Since the project is relatively short, I’ll review it on a song-by-song basis.

“Backroads” – This has a modern country feel with a rolling banjo backing up a slide guitar featuring Darrell on lead vocals. A solid recording with a full arrangement.

“Wade In The Water” – Dawn steps up to the microphone with this black gospel standard. She shows a lot of soul on this one, although the first line is hindered by a bad punch in. Dawn gives a energetic performance, although it does sound a bit forced at times.

“Too Far Gone” – A moving ballad once again led by Dawn. This seems more up her ally, vocally. The stripped-down arrangement works well here.

“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” – This Chris Tomlin adaptation of the standard hymn has been growing in popularity in SG circles. Darrell takes the lead on this one, and it’s the first time on the album that he and Dawn are noticeably singing together, just the two of them.

“Hard To Sing The Blues” – A bluegrass feel drives this John Berry cover, complete with the banjo back in the mix and lots of acoustic guitar leads. Husband and wife take turns leading this one, although it sounds a bit like Dawn is too far down in her lower range at times.

PRODUCTION – There are some spots where you can hear some fret buzzing from the acoustic guitar, and as mentioned above, at least one bad punch in on the vocals.

The mix also could’ve been a bit tighter – I felt like the bass guitar was too low for my liking, and in instances where the acoustic was the primary instrument, it would’ve sounded better had it been doubled on both the left and right channel to fill up the pan a little more. These are just my personal preferences, however.

FINAL THOUGHTS – As a fellow indie musician, I can find much to respect on this album. Is it the most polished? No. There are some technical flaws here and there, and there are some spots where the vocals could use some finesse, but that comes with the territory when you’re doing everything on your own with a limited budget and/or resources (believe me, I know!). Taken in context, I’d put this project right smack in the middle – not the greatest ever recorded, but definitely better than some I’ve heard from larger names.

Category CD Reviews, Reviews

Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at www.kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.

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