The Issues
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The Issues

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The best kept secret in music


"From The Ears Down"

December 12, 2002
"...with R. D. Roth, whose stunning record "From The Ears Down" is an exercise in well-crafted, cinematic songs delivered with self-assured ease and honesty. Calling to mind the elliptical approach of Lambchop and the straightforward songsmithing of writers like Guy Clark, Roth's music holds a wide appeal and countless layers of emotion."
- The Nashville Rage

"Fear Not The Breakdown"

r.d.roth's first disc was reviewed in flyin shoes review as crossing over two worlds - that of Texas singer songwriters and the more avant-garde Nashville world of Lambchop and co. With this his second release that crossover mentality finds ample expression and goes even further across the borders. Roth intones across opening track 'The Fiddler' like Paul K or Steve Wynn and the backing is a murky almost Magazine like 80's type rock over which Deanna Varagona of afore-mentioned Lambchop blows a weird baritone sax blues. Spooky and not a little unusual like rest of the disc. Originally a fine art sculptor, here Roth continues teaching his personal Chicago school of surrealism. Electronica feathers out across that sax sound...then we're into heavy rock....'One In A Billion'...which sounds like a a breathy broke love song but hides deeper layers of meaning regarding abuse of power post 9/11.

The Lambchop tone floods the third track which sounds like a take on 'House of the Rising Sun' with Tim Rose singing.

Obviously this no sensitive singer songwriter disc....and no fake country gothic either. Roth has written in Flyin Shoes Review about his friend Paul K and its his dark take on life and superior songwriting that this disc evokes. The ghost of a darker hearted r.e.m. also floats over the soundscapes he constructs....most notably in the distorted blues of 'Lincoln's Lament'. Suddenly a pedal steel floats into view and Roth throws off a stark country ballad in 'When I Left' a stunning track where the duet voice is that of Eleventh Dream Day/ Freakwater's Janet Bean. Elsewhere David Olney and Varagona guest...some backing group and a measure of esteem he is held in.
'Hey All You Hipsters' is a jaundiced view of the seedier side of the music 'biz' sung like Stipe on downers and frankly closer to Aussie rock merchants The Moodists or The Birthday Party than any U.S. model. 'Eight Ball' is a weird distorted voice surreal sketch that suddenly gives out to favourite track 'Love In The Alley' which is closer to Vic Chesnutt's tracks with Lambchop and a pure delight with a mock Memphis horns sailing behind the chorus The Three Degrees! A beautifully judged track. A Tom Waits-like scrap and hell it veers off like Gary Glitter ...the eclecticism can get confusing...more grunge guitar and dismal mood building and disc ends in a welter of deep purple prose ...' streetlights that look like comes the ground'....cheerful stuff. In its dark ambience the nearest U.S.A. equivalent is darker aspects of Joe Henry and again an artist who crosses over from the country slick to the surreal electroplated blues sound. First disc ended in a faux-medieval 78 sound and same goes for this disc..somewhere off the radar he's crooning in what sounds like next-door's front room.......down home and folksy not really....more like Frank Hutchinson's pre war old timey whiskey-fuelled nightmare..... When too many discs have no ideas this one strains to contain all the explorations but well worth persevering in taking the trip.

- Flyin' Shoes Review - Shaun Belcher

"Fear Not The Breakdown"

Michael Bennett for
R D Roth & The Issues -- *Fear Not The Breakdown* (Floating Moon)
In less than a year since his last album, Roth has assembled a full time band (Heidi Meredith - bass, Gregg Ostrom -- lead guitar, Jerry King -- drums), while handling the production chores all by himself. Wisely, Roth again collaborates with Epicycle’s Ellis Clark, this time as an engineer, since Clark, no stranger to elaborate productions, is able to help Roth realize his ambitious soundscapes. There is no doubt that the foundation of much of his work is folk-based singer-songwriter material, with great attention to the lyrics. Yet he goes well beyond the limits that such a description might indicate. Roth has a flair for the dramatic, befitting his smoky, near baritone voice. But the album’s most striking song may be “Love in the Alley”, where he skillfully melds his folk sensibility with a light ‘60s R & B lilt. Everything on this track is right, from Laura Caragher’s spot-on backing vocals, to the horn accompaniment (including Deanna Varagona on saxaphone), to Chris Gillock’s sunny harmonica solo. The middle eight is wisely repeated, as it has a perfect melody for soulfully ruminating. In the song, Roth finds that an intended fleeting encounter hit him harder than he expected. The record takes on a countryish tint on “When I Left”, an outstanding duet with Freakwater’s Janet Bean -- the contrast between Bean’s pure voice and Roth’s scruffier tones is immediately endearing. Endearing, however, is not Roth’s normal modus operandi. He is a master of songs that sound forlorn, brooding and somewhat menacing. This talent shines (murks?) through on “The Brentwood”, a track that retains its intimacy despite the breadth of the musical canvas. Ominous low-end guitar parts are somewhat leavened by an eerie-pretty organ counterpoint, while Roth describes a city where “they know what escapes you/they know where you been/and nothing is evil when everyone sins.” The track is awash in a paranoia perfect for an Ashcroft America. The tension is much more personal on “Ear to the Ground”, which starts with pithy wordplay in the love song vein, before taking a turn to jealousy and inadequacy, fueled with Neil Young-style power. While many of Roth’s lyrics create impressions and let you fill in the blanks, he is surgically precise on the scathing ballad “Hey All You Hipsters”, an indictment of slacker trendiness, where goateed Pabst drinking bohos try to find originality in a mixture of irony and pop culture past: “It can be a full time job/just separating from the mob”. Much like the movie *Ghost World*, Roth is aware of how using one’s taste as an identifier can be limiting, yet it’s hard to avoid. Such is the richness of this album that many other tracks could merit a similar in-depth analysis of the both the music and the lyrics. What is critical in Roth’s development as an artist is how the music, both in the composition and arrangement, supports the lyrics, both encapsulating and enhancing them. This is a very rewarding piece of work. - Michael Bennett for

"From The Ears Down"

"R.D. Roth - From The Ears Down
If you follow the world of singer-songwriters somewhat, you just know something big is happening when Paul K, Vince Bell and David Olney get out their trumpets to announce a new cd and even to help out on it. Which is exactly what happened with R.D. Roth's first, (as far as we know) studio recording. The man wrote 9 of the 10 songs himself, has a beautiful voice and seems to be a real romantic in that he is not averse to contemplating how things are, how it all was and how it never will be again. All this results in a very bashful, beautiful and sparsely produced cd which should do very well on stormy-autumn nights or snowy-winter evenings. I think a lot of songwriters would have given a lot to write a song such as "I Need A Guru". But the absolute high point of the cd is "All the World Requires"; David Olney puts down a harp part that will bring you out in goose bumps. And that is without mentioning the near magical harmonies between the two men.
Moreover, should R.D. Roth introduce himself to the world as of Irish descent and related to Paul Brady, I would believe him instantly. I think you should go and have a listen and convince yourself of how right I am in this: this is one great voyage of discovery. "
(Dani Heyvaert).
- Down'Roots Town Free Zine Belgium


Still working on that hot first release.


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