di Remo Ricaldone (15/11/2023)

Vocalist and main songwriter for more than twenty years with the Californian band I See Hawks In LA, Robert Rex Waller Jr. has stood out for his tireless collaboration with the best names on the Golden State scene, from Chris Hillman to Jackson Browne through Dave Alvin, Rick Shea, Tony Gilkyson, Peter Case, Bernie Leadon, Justin Townes Earle, Tom Petty and countless others. For years he has established a fruitful partnership with Carla Olson, exchanging ‘favors’ with the latter’s participation in a duet years ago with the Hawks and that of Robert Rex Waller Jr. in Have Harmony, Will Travel by the former Textones frontwoman.

Now Carla Olson produces Waller’s second solo work (after a cover album published in 2016) and intelligently sews a musical dress in which ours is, even vocally, at ease, crossing pop, rock and country music and choosing a decidedly varied repertoire full of ideas and references. The Brill Building, Phil Spector, Roy Orbison, Americana and Californian country music are extremely enjoyable in the hands of Robert Rex Waller Jr. and form a path that perhaps will not add anything new, but which well represents a musician with all-round who quotes his favorite musicians (Four Seasons, Springsteen, Gene Clark, Rank & File) in the most sincere and light-hearted way, assisted by a host of valuable musicians, from ex-Byrds John York to Stephen McCarthy of the Long Ryders, from Skip Edwards (often alongside Dave Alvin and Dwight Yoakam, but also the protagonist of the best sessions in California) to his lifelong friends Paul Lacques and Paul Marshall, at his side in the aforementioned I See Hawks In LA.

See The Big Man Cry is an album that uses a carefully crafted but never overloaded sound whose taste for melody is clear already from the choice to open with The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore, a classic by the ‘Jersey Boys’ led by Frankie Valli signed by the couple Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio. The same atmosphere permeated by Sixties pop can then be felt in There’s No Living Without Your Loving which was a hit for Gene Pitney in 1965 and was also taken up by Manfred Mann and in the eighties by Willy DeVille and in I’ll Never Dance Again by Barry Mann, which at the beginning of the Sixties ended up at the top of the charts thanks to Bobby Rydell’s version. Country music then emerges in the soft Easy Loving and in A Woman’s Touch (by James Intveld and Gary Nicholson) and then reinterprets Rank & File with Amanda Ruth in which the spirit of Roy Orbison hovers.

A record that plays on the dualism between pop-rock and country music, citing for the record once again a Tougher Than The Rest by Springsteen inserted in a somewhat obvious manner even if perfectly in tune with the spirit and an apt and piano-based Gypsy Rider to pay homage to the compositional greatness of Gene Clark.

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