Life is Hard is a songwriting duo from Texas with a list of influences that is as long and varied as my own music library. They're made up of Rob Iutzwig, who grew up learning how to play guitar while listening to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Tim Marshall, who managed to make his way from Australia to Texas.
The songs on their EP titled Rise Again range from the adult contemporary pop of the song “Life is Hard,” which shares the same name as the band to the bar room rock of "Rock n Roll Dream,” the next track on the album. I was immediately reminded of The Eagles when "Rest In Peace" started. Their country influence shines through on "Seasons,” a song that features a female guest vocalist and some great steel guitar work. "Red Rocks" starts off with nearly a minute of shredding before morphing into a pop rock tune with a lyrical hint to U2. The country songs continue with "Ten Miles 'till Empty,” "American Soldier,” and "Those Days,” songs full of reminiscence and pride of place. I got quite a shock at the synth melodies in "Welcome To Las Vegas,” a song that also features a honky harmonica and a country arrangement that's been introduced to electricity.
Performance-wise, this album features some great guitar work on all counts. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to some of the guitar solos and especially the songs that featured a pedal steel guitar. The vocals were a bit shaky at times but are strong for the most part. Unfortunately the lyrics seem to be pulled straight from a rhyming dictionary and are presented without emotion. It's a shame because the guitar playing is so expressive.
While the album is definitely varied and interesting, it does suffer from a lack of focus. It feels like it would have worked better as a group of EPs rather than a single album. Barring that, I would have preferred Life Is Hard find a way to merge their influences into a cohesive sound that really represents the band and gives them a truly unique sound.
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