Review: Riding the Blinds From Go West's Peter Cox

by Claudia A

For his fifth solo album, Go West frontman and BRIT-Award winner Peter Cox has decided to jump on the ever-expanding Americana/Alt-Country bandwagon.

Riding the Blinds is a 12-track effort fusing the increasingly wide-ranging Americana genre with solid, classic rock. While the typical Americana style orientates itself mainly on country and folk influences, the genre also draws on various other sources such as gospel, soul, and occasionally even bluegrass. Cox’ album pretty much integrates all of the aforementioned elements, and successfully so.

Based in Los Angeles since 1994, it was perhaps only a question of time until Americana-fever finally caught up with the versatile artist, who can also add the title of ‘new lead singer for Manfred Mann’s Earth Band’ to his resume (following the departure of Noel McCalla in 2009). Clearly, here’s someone who refuses to be typecast!

But back to Riding The Blinds: many of the featured songs have been penned by ace Nashville writers like Bobby Terry, Brad Chrisler, John Goodwin and SESAC’S ‘Songwriter Of The Year 2012’, Catt Gravitt. Other songs have been written by Americana orientated writers such as Jabe Beyer, but also the UK’s very own Owen James Harvey (City Lights Music), as well as critically acclaimed writer/producer Chris Corney.

Opening track Missing You kicks off in refined, classic rock mode as opposed to the expected alt-country mode, though we can hear some rootsy hues ringing through in the chorus (with additional vocals by David Keates). Last but not least, it’s the excellent guitar work (courtesy of riff-master Richie Barrett) that stands out.

Cox delivers I Don’t Wanna Know with soul and passion, especially when he sings “Why don’t you leave me alone, cause I don’t wanna know”. Due to additional support from Katie Hector, there’s some nice harmony going on in the chorus. The pace changes throughout the track, and the faster parts spit out edgy guitar solos that contrast with the more harmony-laden refrain.

One of my darlings – and also the first song that actually comes close to the album’s widely announced alt-country spirit – is the excellent Both Hands On The Wheel. Firstly, the arrangement reminds me of one of my favorite Americana artists, namely Texan-based Patricia Vonne (sister of movie director Robert Rodriguez). Secondly, I adore the Spanish-influenced guitar play throughout the song, making this a laidback affair full of feeling. It all has a pleasant “let’s roll along into the sunset” vibe about it, and Cox’ voice hits all the right nuances.

The mood gets very soulful on Lay It Down – a mellower dominated by Cox’ singing, while the accompanying instruments remain humbly in the background. A nice and intense power ballad!
I Feel The Heat sees Rose Kimberley belting out some wonderful vocal contribution, while Rob Hughes fiery saxophone effectively transposes the lot.

We’re definitely entering Gospel territory with Love Lives On (the title itself is a give-away) – a scorching composition gradually building up the intensity levels (both instrumentally and vocally speaking). With Cox being the main crooner, and Katie Hector’s backing vocals adding gravitas, the result is quite superb.

The infectious and upbeat ambience of Down To The River evokes echoes of Boss Springsteen. It flows nicely and boasts a rather catchy chorus.

I Can’t Stand To Say Goodbye is one of those songs that radio stations like Heart FM will undoubtedly love. It’s a solid if somewhat safe and predictable arrangement, and Lily Gonzales’ additional vocals only contribute to the number turning saccharine.

You know that Bedfordshire-based writer/producer/artist Chris Corney has his fingers in the pot when Cox gets to sing witty one-liners such as “home is where the heartbreak is”! Not only is Dashboard Lights one of the best tracks on the album, but it’s somewhat ironic that a song penned by Englishman Corney ends up sounding particularly, err, Americana-like. On second thought, maybe not… after all, the Bedforshire maverick has recently signed a publishing deal with London/Nashville based Southern Crossroads Music. Well, it all stays in the extended ‘family’ then, and Cox’ rendition does Corney’s song more than justice.

Not In My Name is foremost a song about the refusal to go patriotic, and preferably not turning a blind eye towards dumb-ass US politics. Musically though, we’re talking nicely textured ‘heartland rock’ here. Although not mentioned in the credits, I could swear I hear a little banjo diddling from some corner. Clearly, it must be my imagination playing tricks on me.

Final numbers Broken Back Road and the (by Louisiana standards) relatively slow-burning Long Way To New Orleans are both well-crafted arrangements, though nothing too spectacular either. The latter features some ‘barely there’ accordion by Anna Ryder, and I do mean barely there… So don’t expect a true Cajun accordion a la Eddie LeJeune. However, the guitars are played in a folky manner that really does pay homage to the sound of the Bayou.

As far as expeditions into new musical territory go, Riding The Blinds is an accomplished work by first-time explorer Peter Cox. Perhaps one or the other song could benefit from sounding a little less polished and adding true grit instead. Then again, it might not suit Cox’ voice.

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