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(Google Translate) For a good fifteen years, guitarist, singer and songwriter Robert Rex Waller Jr. has been the frontman of the famous I See Hawks in L.A., a flagship group of Americana and current alternative country across the Atlantic (ten albums in meter, some of which are reviewed HERE, HERE and HERE). Alongside this activity, he also serves as professor emeritus at the University of Southern California, where he holds the Writing For Visual And Performing Artists chair, intended for aspiring professionals in the performing arts such as television, classical music and popular, architecture or video games. And if all that wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he’s also collaborated for years with pedestrians like Peter Case, Chris Hillman, Bernie Leadon, Lucinda Williams, Justin Townes Earle, Jackson Browne, Dave Alvin, Stevie Wonder, Eddie Mitchell and the great Carla Olson again. It is also the latter who presides over the sessions for this second solo album of our man. Its predecessor (“Fancy Free” in 2016) consisted of a collection of covers by other artists, of which this second attempt brilliantly extends the formula. Robert mischievously presents the concept by referring to the Stones’ “Tattoo You” and Rod Stewart’s “Atlantic Crossing” (which each came, in the golden age of vinyl, in a fast side and a side slow), as well as “These Foolish Things” by Bryan Ferry and “Pin Ups” by Bowie (both made up of covers from eclectic sources).

Opening with a majestic version of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio (from which Cher, Frankie Valli and the Walker Brothers once made their honey) with choirs and strings in great pomp, to continue in this classy pop vein up to the ballad “Tougher Than The Rest” by Bruce Springsteen (via “Girl Of My Dreams” which Ronnie Thomas wrote for Bram Tchaikovsky, “There’s No Living Without Your Loving” to which Gene Pitney, Manfred Mann and Mink De Ville all had a spell, and “I’ll Never Dance Again” (performed by Bobby Rydell and Herman’s Hermits), he also offers “Let Her Go Down” (originally released by Steeleye Span), “Easy Loving ” (country hit by Freddie Hart), “A Woman’s Touch” by James Intveld, “Amanda Ruth” by Rank & File, as well as the titular track, of which Charlie Louvin (of the Louvin Brothers) also achieved some success. To make a good showing are added the “Reconsider Me” by Margaret Lewis and Mira Ann Smith (of which Bill Hurley restored a decisive version on his first solo album, “Double Agent”) and the “Gypsy Rider” by Gene Clark (which the latter recorded with Carla Olson in 1987). The cast includes for the occasion, in addition to his accomplices within I See Hawks In L.A. Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall, the guitarist John York (who appeared in the line-up of the Byrds on “Dr. Byrds & Mister Hyde”), Marty Rifkin and JD Walter on the pedal-steel, guitarist Stephen McCarthy (of the Long Ryders, then the Jayhawks), drummer Benjamin Lecourt (of the Wallflowers), the imperial pianist Skip Edwards (Dwight Yoakam, Dave Alvin) and Miss Olson himself. More openly MOR (for Middle Of The Road) than what Waller Jr usually produces with his regular band, here is a very nice exercise, confirming the vast register of a very talented vocalist, capable of competing at discretion with more mainstream artists.

Paris-MoveBlues Magazine, Illico & BluesBoarder

PARIS-MOVE, October 6th 2023