Veteran singer-songwriter Ricky Byrd has made quite the name for himself throughout his professional life. He has worked with some of the most well-known and respected artists and acts in the music industry, not the least of which being Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. He also has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Mavis Staples, Ian Hunter (Deep Purple), Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Elvis Costello, and so many other well-respected figures in the music industry. During his extensive stint as a member of The Blackhearts, Byrd battled drug and alcohol addiction, eventually leading to him getting clean in sober in 1987. That battle and recovery led him to take on the topic in 2017 in his third album Clean Getaway. Now more than three years after its release, Byrd is addressing the issue again in his latest album Sobering Times. Scheduled for release Friday, the 12-song record is a strong companion piece and follow-up to Sobering Times. That is due to its musical and lyrical content, which clearly build on the foundation formed in Clean Getaway. ‘I Come Back Stronger,’ which comes just ahead of the album’s midpoint, is one way in which the album shows how that musical and lyrical content makes this record such a strong presentation. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Ain’t Gonna Live Like That’ is another way in which the album’s combined musical and lyrical content come together to engage and entertain audiences. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Together’ is one more way in which the album’s overall content shines. When it is considered along with the other songs noted here and the rest of this record, the album in whole becomes one of those rare records that is worth hearing start to end without stopping.
Ricky Byrd’s fourth full-length studio recording Sobering Times is a positive new offering from the veteran singer-songwriter-guitarist. That is proven through the record’s musical and lyrical content. ‘I Come Back Stronger’ is one of the songs that serves to support the noted statements. That is proven in part through the song’s musical arrangement. The arrangement is a gentle, acoustic work that lends itself partially to thoughts of works from Bruce Springsteen. At the same time, there is also a touch of country music incorporated into the song. The way that the song slowly builds from its early bars through the first half to its climax and progresses to its confident second half serves well to translate the message and emotion in the song’s lyrical content. Speaking of that lyrical content, it is engaging in its own right.
As noted, the songs featured in Byrd’s new album focus on the topic of addition, just as with the album’s predecessor. While the song’s lyrical theme centers on the matter of overcoming addiction, it is also about taking on the issues that come with overcoming addiction. Interestingly enough in this case, this song’s lyrical content could just as easily be about facing life’s difficulties, not just because of the battle to overcome addiction. To that end, the song’s lyrical content adds to its impact. The manner in which Byrd delivers his message here also adds to the impact. Byrd sings in the song’s lead verse, “Life is a lesson we all live and learn/All the ups and the downs/And the roadblocks that get in the way/Trying to find myself/I got bruised and hurt/But I survived it all/And it made me the person I am today/Every time I fall/I come back stronger/I was broken once/But not any longer.” The energy in the arrangement as the song reaches that climax in the chorus and the intensity with which Byrd states, “I come back stronger” is a defining moment for the song. The impact in the message remains as strong as ever from there as Byrd enters the song’s second verse. He sings in this verse, “When life hands you keys/That just won’t open up any doors/And you’re stuck in a rut/Feeling desperate/Down to the core/It’s the faith you find along the way/That always gets you through/I face my fears a thousand times/Every time I do/I come back stronger.” Looking back at all of this, the message and story presented in this song is a powerful presentation of why the song is such an important addition to Byrd’s new album. It is just one of the songs that shows what makes Byrd’s new album such a success. ‘Ain’t’ Gonna Live Like That’ is another notable way in which the album shows its strength.
‘Ain’t Gonna Live Like That’ adds to the presentation of Sobering Times because its musical arrangement stands apart from those of the album’s other works. This time Byrd offers audiences a powerful 12-bar blues work in the style of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. The addition of the gospel style choral accompaniment to the arrangement adds eve more to the song’s impact, as does the light, subtle addition of the piano line at points. The whole is a presentation that any true music lover will appreciate and that shows in its own way, the diversity in the album’s musical presentation. The song’s lyrical content, will appeal to blues fans just as much as the musical arrangement. That is especially the case considering that much blues lyrical content in fact centers on the matter of dealing with a matter such as addiction and the negative influences in life, just like this song.
The lyrical content featured in this song comes from the vantage point of someone who has been down the troubled road and has learned from the experiences of that journey. He sings in the song’s lead verse, “lady or the tiger/What’s behind the door/I know one just might kill me/But I just got to get some more/The Devil’s dealin’ aces/’Cause he knows just what you need/To keep you in the alley/Beggin’ bargains on your knees/But I ain’t gonna live that/No more, no more/Hell is living for the need and the score” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Workin’ hard ain’t nothin’/Just fixin’ for a hit/Crawlin’ from the consequences/Swearin’ this is it/Lie beges a lie/And truth is layin’ low/My bull****’s thick with every trick/To get me where I got to go/But I ain’t gonna live like that/No more, no more/Hell is living for the need and the score/But I ain’t gonna live like that no more.” He adds in the song’s third and final verse, “Comin’ to it’s 5 p.m./I woke up three times today…Cold, tired and need some strength to get me off the ground/I pray you help me turn this down/And turn ths life around/’Cause I ain’t gonna live like that/No more, no more/Hell is livin’ for the need and the score/And I ain’t gonna live like that/No more, no more.” Again, the topic of fighting drug addiction is nothing new to the blues, so to have such a familiar topic coupled with an equally familiar musical style makes for even more enjoyment. Taking that into consideration, the song becomes that much clearer an example of what makes Sobering Times an enjoyable record. It is just one more of the songs that shows why this record deserves attention. ‘Together’ does its own share to show the album’s appeal, too.
‘Together’ takes audiences back to the 1960s with its Beatles-esque arrangement, complete with scratchy vocals, steady floor tom beat and snare, and vocal melodies. At the same time, the song features its own bluesy influence alongside that classic rock sound. The whole is a unique musical presentation that once again, shows the diversity in this album’s musical content. It is just one part of what makes the song stand out. The song’s lyrical positive lyrical content adds even more interest to the song.
The lyrical theme featured in ‘Together’ is clear. It delivers and promotes a message of unity for audiences. That is made clear right from the song’s outset as Byrd sings, “Have you ever found yourself desperate for salvation/Prayin’ in the dark/For the light to guide you away/Searchin’ for answers/That just lead to more questions/You might need a little help…I used to keep my pain well-hidden/As far as you know/I’m fine as fine can be/I never let the world know/I was hurtin’/That kind of thinking was almost the death of me/We’re in this together/No need to go it alone/A helping hand when you can’t get there on your own/A body needs somebody/We can always use a friend/A little bit of loving/When the ice is getting’ thin.” The message is made just as clear in the song’s second verse as Byrd sings, “You might think you’re the only one feeling what you’re feeling/There’s a whole lot of people out there hitting that same wall/Crawling from the wreckage/But going back for seconds/You run that…til you just can’t run anymore/I learned the hard way/ There’s strength in numbers/’Cause I tried to win a war all by myself/Side-by-sde and shoulder to shoulder/We’ll beat that devil right back to hell/We’re in this together/ No need to go it alone/A helping hand when you can’t get there on your own/A body needs somebody/We can always use a friend/A little bit of loving/When the ice is getting’ thin.” This is a message that America and the world needs right now more than ever. Sure it applies, again, with the matter of fighting addiction, but it also works in addressing the current state of the nation and world. To that end, that duality in this message strengthens the song’s lyrical presentation even more. When this is considered along with the strength created through the duality in the other songs noted here and the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of the album’s lyrical content proves that much more critical to its presentation. When the lyrical content is considered with the diverse musical content featured throughout the album, that whole makes completely clear why Sobering Times is a record that every music lover will appreciate. In turn, it becomes one more of this year’s top new overall albums.
Ricky Byrd’s latest album Sobering Times is a powerful new presentation from the veteran singer-songwriter-musician. That is proven in part through the record’s diverse musical content. That content will appeal to fans of the blues, classic rock and rock in general. The album’s lyrical themes present their own importance through their duality. On one hand, they address battles with addiction and the recovered from said concern. On the other hand, they can just as easily be related to life in general. All of the songs addressed here serve to support the noted statements. When they are considered along with all of the album’s other songs, the whole of that content unites to make the album in whole a strong new offering from Byrd that is also one more of this year’s top new albums overall and top new rock albums. Sobering Times is scheduled for release Friday through Kayos Records. More information on the album is available along with all of Byrd’s latest news at:
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