Early this month, independent music collective Royal Horses released its debut album A Modern Man’s Way To Improve to the masses. The 10-song record is a strong start for the band. It is a presentation that makes this band one of the next big names in the country and southern rock communities. That is proven in no small part to through the musical arrangements that make up the album’s 37-minute body. They will be addressed shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical content adds to the album’s appeal. It will be addressed a little later. The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation and will be addressed later, too. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the album. All things considered, they make the album a positive start for the up-and-coming outfit that is certain to appeal to a wide range of audiences.
Royal Horses’ debut album A Modern Man’s Way To Improve is a powerful start for the collective. It is a presentation whose appeal is far-reaching. This is proven in part through its musical arrangements. From start to end of the album, the band refuses to stick to just one sound and stylistic approach. There is some rock influence, such as in ‘Rattlesnake Smoking a Cigar,’ which comes late in the albums run. The song’s arrangement and sound is psychedelic. There are times in this four-and-a-half-minute opus that conjure thoughts of Jimi Hendrix while at others, there are hints of Clutch. Yes, it’s one heck of a combination, but it is balanced surprisingly well here and works just as well. On a completely different note, ‘Leave A Light’ presents an old school country music approach that will appeal to fans of Hank Williams, what with its vintage honky ton sound and style. On yet another note, a song, such as ‘Valley of the New’ will appeal to fans of the modern country rock band Reckless Kelly. There is even a welcome bluegrass element in ‘Call It War’ and an equally enjoyable blues-based rock presentation in ‘Who Do You Know’ that will appeal to fans of Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band. ‘Ruby Do’ gives audiences a sort of rockabilly approach that fans of Rev. Horton Heat and the Legendary Shack Shakers will enjoy. Between these noted arrangements and the others featured throughout the album, the whole of the record’s musical content shows great diversity. That in itself ensures the album’s noted wide appeal. It is just one aspect of what audiences will enjoy about the album. The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s diverse range of musical arrangements adds to the record’s appeal even more.
The lyrical content that is presented throughout A Modern Man’s Way To Improve adds to the album’s success because it is just as accessible as the album’s musical arrangements. Case in point is the lyrical content featured in ‘Valley of the New.’ Front man Shelby Kemp sings here, “give me a reason to be here/Give me something to lose/Sing me a riddle/And I’ll give you a good answer/And I’ll hold you ‘til the sun comes shining through.” From there he sings later, “If I die here/There is something you must do/March me down/In a field of golden roses/March me down/to the tune of something blue/hang my hat/On a yonder mountain/Lay my heart/In the valley of the new.” This is as old school country as a song can get. On another note, the addition of the claves to the song’s arrangement gives the work a little bit of a Jimmy Buffet influence. Getting back on track, the song follows lyrically in similar fashion as that presented in its lead verse and chorus. Simply put, this is vintage country in which someone is singing about life gone by and what is to come. It’s one of those classic introspective songs that one could so easily hear in an old, dimly lit honky tonk bar. Its introspective lyrical content and equally moving musical arrangement makes for so much enjoyment.
‘Valley of the New’ is just one of songs whose lyrical theme shows the overall importance of the album’s lyrical content. ‘Rattlesnake Smoking A Cigar’ presents its own interesting lyrical content. It is just as psychedelic as the song’s musical arrangement. The subject sings here about going for a drive with his dad. The duo meets a group of women *allegedly* and one turned out to be not quite what she appeared. It is the most unique lyrical presentations featured in this album and will certainly have listeners talking.
‘Bottom of the Chart’ presents another unique lyrical theme that is worth noting. This song finds the song’s subject singing about being there for someone else when all of life’s negativities happen. From everything dying to “mother earth closing her eyes”, to even rivers being dammed up by trees, the song’s subject says he will be there for that person “at the bottom of your chart.” This is just this critic’s interpretation, but it comes across as someone saying, even when I’m the last on your list, the least important to you, I’ll be there. If in fact that is what the song’s subject is saying, then it is powerful. Most people who realize they are at the bottom of someone else’s priorities will do something to change things and perhaps just walk away from that situation. For this song’s subject to seemingly say he will be there, devoted as ever, no matter what, is a powerful statement. On one hand, it is moving. On another, some might say not so smart. The seeming lyrical theme in itself is certain to generate plenty of discussion. Building on the noted discussion, if in fact this critic’s interpretation is right then it takes listeners in yet another distinct direction. It shows even more, the record’s lyrical diversity. The result is that it shows even more, the importance of the album’s lyrical content in whole. The rest of the record’s lyrical content supports the noted statements just as much as that examined here. Between all of that and the album’s musical content, all of this more than makes this record worth hearing. All of that content is just a part of what makes A Modern Man’s Way Of Improving such a strong start for Royal Horses. The production of the noted collective content rounds out the record’s most important elements.
The production of A Modern Man’s Way of Improving is important to note because of how much is going on in some of the album’s entries, and how little is going on in others. ‘BLD’ for instance, which closes out the album, is one of the entries that has very little going on. It is grounded in a very simple, light guitar line. The echoing effect in the guitar’s melancholy approach is a credit to the production. It really serves to help set the mood in this song. The lyrical content is very limited here, which means the music takes center stage. Those behind the boards are to be credited for their work here. That noted echo effect and just the simplicity in the guitar line here supports the old adage that it is possible for a song to be heavy without being heavy.
By comparison, the album’s title track, which comes very early in its sequence, has a little bit more going on. The poppy approach and sound in the song again lends itself to comparisons to works from Reckless Kelly, but in this case, also to works from Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen. That’s one heck of a collection of influences, but it works so well here. It is also a credit to those responsible for the album’s production. That upbeat but still light guitar line works so well with the song’s solid time keeping and catchy vocal delivery style to make for so much enjoyment. On another level, the subtlety in the lead guitar line against the lighter rhythm guitar line adds its own richness to the presentation. The bass line pairs with that aspect to fill out the arrangement even more. As the song progresses, an increasing amount of action takes place. Each element within the song is expertly balanced throughout, to the end that the song offers listeners full enjoyment and engagement from start to end. It is just one more way in which the album’s production proves so important and hardly the last. ‘Call It War’ is another example of the importance of the album’s production.
‘Call It War’ crosses elements of bluegrass with southern rock and country into one whole for its foundation. The very crossing of the elements into one whole makes for an interesting presentation. That the banjo and electric guitar get equal attention here thanks to the production enriches the song’s arrangement in its own right. That the drums are used to tastefully here to add accents in all of the right points adds even more to the song’s enjoyment and engagement. The whole conjures thoughts of the Jerry Reed/Dick Feller hit song ‘Eastbound and Down’ from the timeless Burt Reynolds movie Smokey & The Bandit. That the whole can conjure such a comparison and that everything is so well-balanced here is one more example of the impact and importance of the album’s production. The production clearly brings out the best aspects of each song, in turn making each song so enjoyable and engaging. When this is considered along with the album’s musical and lyrical content, the whole of these elements makes the album in whole a successful first outing for Royal Horses.
Royal Horses’ debut album A Modern Man’s Way To Improve is a positive first outing for the up-and-coming band. It is a presentation that is sure to appeal to a wide range of listeners. That is proven in large part through its musical arrangements. The record’s musical arrangements offer elements of southern rock, country, bluegrass, and even blues-based rock. The arrangements never stay on one track for too long a period of time, either. That ensures in its own way, listeners’ enjoyment and engagement. The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements is just as diverse as the album’s musical arrangements. It ensures even more that enjoyment and engagement. The production that went into the album’s presentation brings out the best elements of each arrangement, making the album even richer in its presentation. Each item noted here is important in its own right to the album’s presentation. Al things considered, they make the album a promising first outing for Royal Horses. The album is available now.
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