Okay, I gotta admit, I hard a hard time getting into the release ‘The Rivers Run Deep’ by Oklahoma’s The Righs. I couldn’t put my finger on why this was, though, and I decided that instead of putting it aside, I would scrutinize the disc and write up my criticisms. In doing this, however, the CD not only grew on me after only a couple of spins but I also developed quite an appreciation of The Righs’ sound.
Most immediately noticeable on the ‘The Rivers Run Deep’ is the CD’s rough cut, ragged edge, reminiscent of a recorded “live-in-the-studio” release which gives an impression of the energy that the band must convey while on stage. Listening further in, I discovered difficulty in finding an umbrella-term that could encompass all the influences at work. I mean, this band is all over the map with original songs of Ireland, (‘Dublin: Easter; 1916’,) cover songs from Scotland, (‘Loch Lomond’, and ‘Amazing Grace’,) a sea shanty, (‘I’m Bound Away’,) a deep country/western caterwauling chorus, (‘I Hope I Never see You Again’,) and tales of ghosts and Hobbits. Most surprisingly to me, though, was the use of a trumpet in a couple of songs, including the lead-off track.
Now, I have never been particularly interested in the trumpet’s sharp, shouting blare and this may have contributed to my initial indifference. I chastised myself for my close-minded hypocrisy, (seeking out and applauding bands for their new, unique and signature sounds, yet quickly blocking my ears at the inclusion of, *gasp,* brass!), despite the instrument’s use on only a small percentage of the CD’s 10 tracks. It should also be noted that the trumpet’s voice is used in a subtle supporting role. I dropped my prejudices and, after a moment to digest the blend found myself smiling in approval and even wishing for further inclusion of the “non-kosher” sound throughout the disc!
As for the rest of the instrumentation, a more traditional mixture of guitars, bass, drums, mandolin, fiddle, tin whistle and banjo are shared by the six members of the band. Vocals ring in strong, confident and comfortable somewhere between Flogging Molly’s Dave King and The Skels’ Chris Fried and compete only with the fiddle for the front pole-position in The Righs’ signature sound.
The strongest element in ‘The Rivers Run Deep’, however, is the songs. After I stopped scrutinizing and started simply listening, I noticed them. Really well-written songs. Very catchy melody lines with intelligent and engaging lyrics within the interesting arrangements.
So, in a final attempt to define the sounds on this CD, let me just say that The Righs’ debut release, ‘The Rivers Run Deep’ is an enthusiastic Celtic folk-punk blend seasoned with sea-spray, barn-floor sawdust, Tolkien-esque halfling toe-tapping, and a pinch of brass. If this doesn’t sound like your type of music, just remember, it wasn’t mine. Then, it was. Now, despite the seemingly unrelated influences at work, (or, perhaps, because of them,) I not only enjoy this CD, but I find myself anxiously looking forward for future releases!
Review by Christopher Toler, THE Blathering Gommel