Australian artist Billy Roberts has put together a 10-track album titled The Last Of The Originals which, although marketed as country, it’s also Americana (with folk and blues elements) and even features traces of hard rock. With Roberts on the guitar and taking care of the vocals and Billy Anderson on the piano and drums, these Rough Riders share personal stories in true country fashion, most of the songs discussing relationships and women.
The album starts with “Mrs. Jones”. It is more of a rock tune with elements of country in the form of languid vocals and a piano. The vocals really don’t seem to match the music; you usually associate this kind of strong, guitar-driven, upbeat tune with equally strong vocals. But here, the singer (Roberts) sounds almost like he doesn’t care, like he is giving a monologue which happens to be at the same time as a rock band is playing, sounding at times like he was pulled from the crowd to perform karaoke. It made for a unique sound and an intriguing listen.
The following track, the more southern-sounding “I’m Gonna Get That Girl”, is just as upbeat, featuring the same overall elements: guitar rock sounds with intermittent piano and soft, off-kilter vocals. The country elements, however, are not present anymore. The vocals again come in sharp contrast with the rest of the track. It comes of sounding like he doesn’t care that he is being recorded, and that he is an amateur with talent who doesn’t quite know the song.
“My Baby Gone Cold” brings country aspects back with full force; here the vocal chops go with the music perfectly. (This is where the listener realises that in the previous tracks, although the listless vocals were odd against an energetic rock tempo, the combination has been built in a way that worked.) This piano-driven, foot-thumping track features keyboards halfway through – you can easily imagine it being played in a country lounge, with an enthusiastic pianist playing away on the yellowed keys of the faithful instrument that had been standing on the side of a stage for many a year.
The overall country tone remains strong in the following “Be With You”, which also sees the return of rock elements featured in the album’s first two tracks. The vocals are more forceful here, as if the singer has woken up. The LP slows down with “Never Know”, a soft country rocker that features the strongest singing yet. In “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, it feels like the vocalist is taking a stand for himself. It gives the image of the singer straightening his pants to talk firmly to his lady and laying clear boundaries.
“Davey Crockett and the Alamo” brings in some Irish-sounding violin which, combined with the cymbal work, gives the song an almost mystical feel that is further enhanced by the psychedelic vocals. The first half of this seven-minute song is slow, while the second half is a guitar-driven hard rocker with superb violin solos. The album closes off with the bluesy rock of “Red Head Baby”.
Again, this isn’t really a pure country/Americana album. Then again, that comes as no surprise, seeing as Billy Roberts’ attitude, according to the man himself, is that he is who he is, and doesn’t answer to anyone or any genre. He has helped put together an album that is very personal not just in the themes he sings about, but also in the very manner he has put various styles together. The resulting collection of tunes is one with a little bit of many things, on which lovers of rock and country might find something they like.
More information is available on Billy Roberts’ website, and the album can be streamed on Bandcamp.
First published here on Blogcritics.