5 Songs, 19 Minutes


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New Voices Find Signature Sound

There’s a solid piece of advice often given to budding creative types that says to simply start with what you know. Begin with the things that have influenced you, because their work will be a part of you either way, and allow your own style to eventually bleed through. On their debut studio release, Taking Back the Time, R.X. Bertoldi & Son seem to have taken this advice to heart and mine it for all it’s worth as they pay homage to their musical heroes while crafting their own niche.

Those musical heroes that we speak of are none other than Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, and The Rolling Stones. All seminal influences in Bertoldi’s musical growth, Dylan and Waits specifically get a spotlight tossed their way on this release in forms of thoughtful, faithful covers. Bertoldi & Son offer up an engaging take on Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel,” the folk flavors a solid fit for Bertoldi’s warm and accessible vocals, which do resemble Dylan’s in their cadence, and are given some extra pop from Keith Lowe’s (Fiona Apple, Bill Frisell) stellar upright bass. Lowe lends his talents to the group’s cover of Waits’ “Ol’ ‘55” as well, the familiar lyric and harmonies feeling right at home coming from this collective.

Also of note is co-producer, Johnny Sangster (Mudhoney, Posies),who makes key contributions with his tasteful additions of electric guitar, electric bass, percussion and keyboards backing throughout the album to lift all of these songs even further.

But while there are many artists who can honor and reproduce the work of others, the real test comes when the spotlight turns to the original work. And here Bertoldi shows that he’s no one trick pony.

“When the Bullets Fly” marks the first of the three original tracks found here and connects lyrically, offering a biting commentary on the nation’s increasing trend of gun violence, while also delivering musically with a blues-rock vibe that pulses with just the right tone of moodiness. It’s a mix of Dylan/Stones that really works and shows that Bertoldi has the chops to make it work.

“In My Younger Days” is another success story, finding the artist lean heavily on his Dylan influences for an Americana flavored delight. Bertoldi’s vocal cadence gives a serious head-nod to that influence while his rolling lyric is playful and engaging, enhanced by solid hits of guitar and his son’s persistent drumming. Add in some warm harmonica and you might find yourself wondering if we’re setting the stage for a renewed folk revival.

Drawing from an alt-country template with continued folk-flavored vibes, “Guiding Lights” provides a lyric that focuses on the positive, using it in order to maintain a sense of perspective in life, while continuing to lean on his influences. Further Dylan-esque notes resonate throughout this hopeful track, right down to more harmonica and airy acoustic guitar lines, which, in other hands might falter but in Bertoldi’s feels right and natural, ending on a strong note.

There have been countless artists throughout the years who’ve found their inspiration in the likes of Dylan, Waits, and the Stones. Yet few have given their work the warm devotion and respect that R.X. Bertoldi & Son have, honoring their work while incorporating so much of their influence into their own songwriting. It’s a perfect match and sets the table for more great work from these exciting new voices as they continue to explore and find their signature sound.

R.X Bertoldi & Son
Taking Back the Time EP
Rating: 3.5
Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh