Hailing from West Virginia Anthony Neff is a singer/songwriter who composes heartfelt songs that feel like they are a little slice of the states. On his latest album Between The Rungs Neff writes rock songs with a country twang as well as aching acoustic ballads that blend in other genres such as blues and even a little smidge of punk. Neff’s vocal style seems to vary from song to song. Take for instance the excellent opener “American Fire” where his voice is stoic, reeks with masculinity and melancholy as he sings just a couple notches above a whisper.
This style is a far cry from the his singing on “Company Time” where his voice sounds exuberant, less intimate and generally a lighter tone. Don't take this is wrong way his adapting tone contributes to an album that is varied and full of rich instrumentation.
The second song “Killing Me Slow” is about the end of a relationship and is an electrifying rock song with distorted guitar and a catchy melody that will get stuck in your head. It is pretty straightforward and there are not too many surprises on this one but a good song all around. Neff knows how to rock but his vocals and style seem to fit best with the type of songs you might imagine when someone is down on their luck and wants nothing more than a pack of smokes and a bottle of whiskey. The country swagger of “Still So Gone,” which is a song Johnny Cash might have appreciated, best exemplifies this.
One of the highlights for me was one of the sparse songs on the album entitled “Last Waltz.” It revolves around an organ and Neff’s voice but that is really all you need. The song has a bit of a haunting quality that is only solidified by some of his lyrics as Neff talks about ashes and bones. “Heart Turns Black” is an incredibly catchy loose number while “The Ladder” wasn't one of my favorites. The album closes with “Home,” which is an acoustic song that showcases Neff’s best qualities. The intimacy of the music and the solace in his voice combines to make a lasting effect.
Between The Rungs is a varied album but tends to lend itself towards darker themes. Luckily, Neff treated these themes with care so his delivery and execution are authentic as well as meaningful.
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