Bob Rea
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Bob Rea

Durango, Colorado, United States | SELF

Durango, Colorado, United States | SELF
Band Americana Singer/Songwriter

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"Indie Scene"

ut possessing
a genuine gift for self-expression.
Blake also
prov ide s
the narrative between songs (a
second disc offers the music
only) and his child’s sense of
whimsy suggests an air of
idyllic innocence that pervades
the album as a whole. In some
respects, Soda Pop Gramophone takes
its cue from Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, the
legendary rock fairy tale that became the
Small Faces’ swan song—although the
series of vignettes that form the storyline
holds together only loosely. Ultimately,
it’s Mazzarella’s musical overview that
provides the focus, with songs like “Wake
Me,” “Didn’t Every Day?” “My Mind Your
Mind” and “Flowers, Towers and Waves”
all contributing to the winning retro
pastiche. A most imaginative initiative,
Soda Pop Gramophone never goes fl at.
76 MAY 2010
M3_v9.indd 76 5/13/10 9:43 PM
DECEMBER 2010 ISSUE
DECEMBER 2010 M MUSIC & MUSICIANS MAGAZINE
Rea’s songs can come across ragged at times, but they’re
also very easy to like. An old school raconteur with a stylistic
similarity to the likes of Guy Clark, Waylon Jennings and
Rodney Crowell, Rea demonstrates a surefooted take on
the Everyman perspective. - M Music & Musicans


"Ragged Choir Review"

Review
by William Ruhlmann
At age 59, singer/songwriter Bob Rea is releasing only
his second album with Ragged Choir, following his
debut with Black Highway. His life experience makes
it unsurprising that he does not come off as an earnest
newcomer, but rather as an experienced veteran. Rea
sings in a craggy baritone with a touch of the sardonic,
which is appropriate to his lyrics to story songs full of
reflections on hard lives lived by the down and out in a
country going to hell in a handcart. There is a political
element in some of Rea's songs, such as "Platinum
Dream," which treats the 2008 economic meltdown, among other things, and "Dirty Dzzez," another
lament about what this country's coming to: "No more amber waves of grain/Just internet
violence and video games." Except for the occasional reference to the Christian religion, Rea
doesn't offer much of a way out of the world's troubles or those of his often stoned or inebriated
characters, except perhaps to hit the road, although where one might escape to isn't clear. Producer
Tim Lorsch surrounds Rea's dire pronouncements with attractive folk/country arrangements
featuring the standup bass/drums rhythm section of Dave Francis and Mickey Grimm,
augmented with acoustic string instruments including banjo, dobro, fiddle, and steel guitar, with
fingerpicked acoustic guitars supplied by Blue Miller and George Bradfute. The backup musicians
assure that even if things are as bad as Rea supposes, there is some pleasure to be had in
listening to songs that elucidate the crisis.
C o - All Music


"Various Reviews"

“Black Highway”, the debut album that appeared in 2003 by Bob Rea, was for us one of the greatest musical highlights of that year. We thought it was completely deserved, that some people were already comparing him to great artists in the same genre, such as J.J. Cale, Dave Alvin, and Rodney Crowell. It may therefore not need an argument that we were very pleased when we recently learned that there was finally a sequel, “Ragged Choir”, on its way. The collection of songs that aged for seven years and was produced by Tim Lorsch, proved our longing for this new album more than worthy. With his his guitar and his bronze, baritone voice as his principle companions, Rea explores numerous universal themes in “Ragged Choir”. Due to his enormous interest in the human condition, he pours his songs from the vessel of life itself. And what he finds only gets worse with time. Fortunately, Rea knows how to avoid the pessimistic matters of life. An occasional humorous note, even in some of his darkest songs, leaves some room left for a glimmer of hope on the horizon. And, in the end that is what this beautiful amalgam of swamp and roots rock, gospel, country and folk does just fine. That, and the input of highly skilled coaches like guitarist Blue Miller (India.Arie), steel virtuoso Mike Daley, bassist Dave Carroll, keyboardist Dennis Gage, harmonica wonder Jelly Roll Johnson, drummer Mickey Grime from Over The Rhine, and multi-instrumentalist George Bradfute. Together, they make things like the song “Stand Up” on a swampy groove beat, the current economic short singing folk-rocking “Platinum Dream” or the bluesy “Wretched Soul” real beauties. But, even on his own, or with essentially converted strict supervision, Rea hold’s his own. He proves this, for example, with “Dead River Blues” (with Jelly Roll Johnson on the harmonica) and the song that is obviously linked to his own difficult past, “I Will”. “I will do just what it takes to keep my family warm and safe”, it says. We should praise our lucky selves that these days Rea got back to making records like “Ragged Choir”. A great recommendation!

Review from Alt Country Forum




“(Rea’s) life experience makes it unsurprising that he does not come off as an earnest newcomer, but rather as an experienced veteran. Rea sings in a craggy baritone with a touch of the sardonic, which is appropriate to his lyrics to story songs full of reflections on hard lives lived by the down and out in a country going to hell in a handcart. Producer Tim Lorsch surrounds Rea's dire pronouncements with attractive folk/country arrangements featuring the standup bass/drums rhythm section of Dave Francis and Mickey Grimm, augmented with acoustic string instruments including banjo, dobro, fiddle, and steel guitar, with fingerpicked acoustic guitars supplied by Blue Miller and George Bradfute. The backup musicians assure that even if things are as bad as Rea supposes, there is some pleasure to be had in listening to songs that elucidate the crisis.” — William Ruhlman / AllMusic





“With his his guitar and his bronze, baritone voice as his principle companions, Rea explores numerous universal themes in ‘Ragged Choir’. Due to his enormous interest in the human condition, he pours his songs from the vessel of life itself. A great recommendation!”

— AltCountry Forum




"'Ragged Choir' by Bob Rea is an incredible album by a man who has the nerve to turn his words into the most blatant and furious assault on America propriety."

— John Shelton Ivany, National News Bureau

The coolest, outlaw-ish, Southern-rock-spiced release in ages.

— Lord Litter

"Black Highway" is an independent masterpiece equal in tone, texture, and meaning to more recent recordings by Marty Stuart (Pilgrim), Rodney Crowell (Fate's Right Hand), Dave Alvin (Ashgrove), and J.J. Cale (To Tulsa and Back) ... it is full of graphic imagery, produced to rural red dirt perfection ... and easily the BEST pure Americana release I've heard to date here at CDBaby. If you're an Americana fan and you don't buy this cd, you're just plain crazy.

— Chris K., Big Bender Records, Hapi Skr
.Main menu - assorted


"Raggeg Choir"

Bob Rea hails from Durango, Colorado and has spent his life stumbling amongst the foothills of The American Dream; he's worked at several sorts of job, fallen foul of the law, struggled to raise his family and somehow survived it all with enough self-respect intact to be able to document this kind of life in song. There are hordes of people like Bob, all at sea with the way a capitalist society works and dismissed by the admittedly high proportion of people for whom it all seems to work just fine. A lot of these "losers" succumb in one way or another but once in a while someone like Bob comes along who has lived that kind of life and can relate the perspective from the bottom to a wider world.



An earlier album of Bob's, Black Highway, received a lot of praise and I'm sure that Ragged Choir can only enhance his reputation. The fourteen songs let his imagination range around all sorts of aspects of the underbelly of American life. Frequently giving vent to a simmering anger he seeks to understand the circumstances and the states of mind that produce the people who never seem to thrive. Along the way he comes up with some great scenarios and some cute observations. In "My Getaway" the protagonist is bowling down the highway, with "Jesus on the radio/ And the devil in my soul". Similarly, in "Stand Up", he pictures the "congregation waiting for the rapture to come/One hand on the Bible and the other on a gun". Both of these are particularly American dichotomies, stumbling blocks on the road to an America at peace with itself.



From what he tells of his own life, Bob himself could easily have been centre stage in all of these stories but I kind of feel that, like a proper artist, he's actually using his imagination to put himself in others' shoes, some of the time at least. The most impressive song, though, probably comes from personal experience. "Lights Out" paints a picture of life in the cell block; it's as bleak as the life portrayed and pins down why prison remains prison, a kind of living death, no matter what the comforts or privileges provided.



So what about the music? Well Bob himself picks an acoustic guitar like a true folkie, with masterful fluidity. Sometimes Bob's playing is centre stage and it's a pleasure to hear that; no more of a pleasure, however, than the very fine band playing throughout this album. Strings maestro Tim Lorsch is the producer and he's put together a very fine collection of players to flesh out these songs. There's some great electric guitar (and especially slide guitar) from George Bradfute, some lovely dobro and steel guitar from Mike Daley that produces much of the "country" colour to this album and generally the highest quality playing throughout, entirely in tune with the demands of the material. One musical surprise, of sorts, comes with the blues-y jazz overtones introduced by a flugelhorn solo that outros "Lights Out". It's good, though, adding depth to the feeling of sadness at all those wasted lives.



The musical landscape is changing fast, nothing seems quite as predictable as it once was. If part of this change is that guys like Bob Rea, articulate and musical down to the toes of their cowboy boots, can conjure a musical career as they approach retirement age then that's just fine by me.

John Davy





“ - Flying horseshoes


"Bob Rea at the Bluebird"

March 17, 2011 Music » Giant Steps

Bob Rea shoots from the heart on the Nashville-recorded Ragged Choir
by Ron Wynn
Singer/songwriter Bob Rea has been creating music and penning life stories since he was 15. But the journey from his days playing in high school and college bands around the Arizona and New Mexico area to his current status among the more respected performers on the Americana circuit was as unusual and diverse as the material on his fine new release Ragged Choir.

Rea, who'll be performing Wednesday, March 16, at the Bluebird Cafe, has raised cattle and built both log cabins and elaborate mansions. He's endured plenty of personal heartbreak and tough times, yet also has managed to successfully raise two children. (One of them, his son, works part-time for the Americana Music Association.)

After all that, however, Rea says he doesn't concern himself with anything in his music other than honesty and directness. He admits that Ragged Choir is something you don't hear much in contemporary 21st century musical circles — a concept album.

"I wanted to put something together that told a unified story and offered a complete vision, not a group of unconnected singles where I might get a hit or a couple get picked up as singles," Rea said during a phone interview. "I draw a lot on my past life. I've met a lot of people, and the experiences I've had and the people I've come across give me inspiration and insight into things.

"It's also the best way to write, because you're talking from the heart."

Ragged Choir was recorded in Nashville, but modern and traditional country are just two of the many influences interspersed throughout the disc. Such tunes as the rousing "Stand Up" and the poignant "Wretched Soul" offer emphatic and searing testimonies about the importance of maintaining ethics and personal statements in an era of selective morality, while amounting to a dynamic portrait of a individual battling back and persevering through disaster. "Platinum Dream" is another topical tale, this one about the ravages and impact of the recession. Rea's at his vocal finest on "The Careful Song," nicely blending pathos, humor, reflection and philosophical musings.

But there are also some lighter numbers — particularly "Coure d'Alene," a superb bluegrass-accented piece powered by excellent fiddle from Tim Lorsch (who also produced the session) and super dobro licks from Mike Daley. Other strong contributors include guitarist Blue Miller, legendary Austin bassist Dave Carroll, organist Dennis Gage, Over the Rhine drummer Mickey Grimm and multi-instrumentalist George Bradfute. The range of influences runs from urban R&B and Southern rock to Americana as well as the expected country and bluegrass stylings. Rea's earthy, exuberant leads are at the core of each tune, but the arrangements, spontaneous feel and overall quality reflect a genuine collaborative effort.

While he's not anticipating or expecting to get much radio response from Ragged Choir, Rea is happy about the early reaction the album is receiving in Americana circles.

"The Americana format is a great one for people like me," Rea says. "It's starting to get a little crowded now, and sometimes people aren't so sure about what goes into the category. But it's also a field where you have the freedom to write and play what you feel and not be so concerned with it fitting a set or rigid format. You can do various types of things and they're welcome within the format.

"It's certainly something that wasn't around when I first started playing music, and I'm grateful it's here and seems to still be enjoying some audience support and growth."

He now divides his time between Durango, Colo., and Nashville, and Rea is happy about Music City's evolution since he first came here a decade ago. "Nashville's now a place where all types of great players and writings come together and where music is treated with respect," Rea says. "It's always been that way but I think now it's becoming really a center for great songwriters in particular. A place like the Bluebird really respects the written word, values songwriters and gives them a place where they can come and present their material and audiences will honestly respond to it. There aren't many places like it anywhere, and playing there is always a treat and a delight."

Bob Rea appears 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 16, at the Bluebird Cafe along with Walt Aldridge, Irene Kelley and Stephen Styles. There is no cover charge.

- Nashville Scene


Discography

Black Highway--2003
Ragged Choir--2010-11

Rea’s first album, Black Highway, made waves
on Americana radio and was well received in the UK.
Lord Litter, who rivals the late John Peel for his impeccable
taste in underground music, called it “the coolest
outlaw-ish, Southern-rock-spiced release in ages.” The
record also did well in Germany, The Netherlands and
Belgium. Ragged Choir is an extension of the work on his
debut, Black Highway, but the songs hit harder. Rea’s
expressive baritone is more powerful and the album has
the organic feel of old friends playing tunes they’ve know
all their lives. “My life and my songs have been a process
of continual evolution,” Rea says. “Some force on the
other side channels these songs to me. I’m not impressed
with money; I only worry about it when I'm running out of
it. The idea of writing songs that are soap opera simple
doesn’t move me. That’s not my motivation. No matter how the wind blows I'm going to sing the truth."

Photos

Bio

Bob Rea’s clear-eyed visions of life’s darker side
bristle with authority because he’s lived the life he sings
about. He’s been a homeless wanderer and a pool hall
hustler, played in roughneck country bands across the
great Southwest and been a regular performer at bars and
clubs near his hometown of Durango, Colorado. He’s been
a cattle rancher, a builder of log cabins and mansions, a
general contractor, and just about every thing that's hard to
do in between. He’s experienced bankruptcies, divorces,
incarcerations, and years or working long hours to provide
for his family, living through the hard times and tribulations
that give his songs their hard-edged wisdom.
Through all this he raised his two children. "That's the
thing that I will always be proudest of" he say's "sometimes
we didn't have much of anything but we didn't seem
to notice. We lived in a run down trailer out in the
sticks but it taught us how to blend humility with
dignity. Now we look back on that beat up hunk of tin like
it was a sanctuary." Rea’s weathered baritone and down
home picking is as authentically country as you can get,
with a love of folk, bluegrass and blues that contributes to
his singular style.
Yet through the thread of dark and sad stories his wry humor still brings a twinkle of
hope. He is clearly a man who does not give up and who is
not afraid to try.
He says about his creative process. “I'm
interested in writing about the human condition and
the changes that are happening right now in the United
States and the world. There’s a massive shift happening in
our values and our way of life. Wealth has proven to be a
fickle God and the realization of that infidelity is creating
a great deal of turmoil."

Bob Rea wants you to know one thing: he tells the truth.
On Ragged Choir, he delivers 14 tales full of truth, soul
and optimism that mine his lifetime of experience, songs
that often explore the darker corners of the American
psyche.!"I can't embrace the jackpot mentality of the music
business, I don’t care about hits and I’m too old not to sing the truth,” the 59-year-old singer/
songwriter and guitarist says, “If you’re going to write a song, you have to say something. And I always have something so say.”