Singer/songwriter Cliff Ritchey has made his mark on the Midwest playing in the band A.M Drive and putting thousands of miles behind him on the road. His time in the band generated a lot of buzz that allowed him to travel to all corners of the United States. His new album The Second Half is Ritchey’s take on the country, Americana and folk genres with a hint of modern indie rock.
The Second Half has a healthy mixture of tones. Right off the bat there’s the first track “Honey Baby” which comes off as a sweet country pop song with light and catchy lyrics. This song is actually one of my favorites which is interesting because I am not an easy person to win over when it comes to country music. I can be quite picky.
The album continues on for a few tracks, sticking to the country vein. These tracks resembled a lot of country standards which is fine, but I struggled to find something fresh sounding. It’s clear that Ritchey knows his way around a guitar and did manage to find some alluring riffs that I enjoyed. The music is good, but just too familiar and standard at times.
Vocals were very hit or miss. There are certain tracks in the album such as “Rolla Coaster” and “Worrying and Wasting” where he attempts a gruffer sound. In doing this, he unfortunately almost adopts a vocal effect similar to what they call in the broadcast industry the radio “puker” voice. He strains his voice to create a rough edge but the end result pushed the songs into cheesy territory.
If you want to hear Ritchey really flex his vocal talent look to the last two tracks on the album. “Fair Maiden Lady” was not only one of my favorites vocally but definitely my top pick for lyrics. Ending the album is a beautiful song called “Song for Jules” which features another batch of sweet lyrics and is another great example of Ritchey’s lovely vocal ability.
The mixing of the album was done by Ritchey himself and I would not have guessed it was done at home. The album’s levels are truly fantastic. He achieved a warm and rich sound that jives with the vibe of his work. Among the things Ritchey picked up during his time on the road, knowing how to mix his own audio may have been one of the most valuable. He did have some professional help with the mastering which was done by Chad Evans at Gaither Studios in Alexandria, Indiana. I love that he kept everything in the Midwest, a nice touch.
I was not completely in love with this album but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to appreciate. I can say with all honestly that anyone who is a fan of any of the musical areas that Ritchey touched on in this album could appreciate a good portion of the songs. The album was produced at a professional level and Ritchey’s passion for this project is easy to hear.
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