I had a hard time coming to grips with the fact that Breaking In Lonesome is Rick Faris’s first recording as a solo artist. Part of it is his decade-long presence in Special Consensus, where his agreeable vocals and stellar picking have been showcased on five of the band’s projects. Another part is that Faris is an old soul, albeit in a younger body.
Whatever the reason, Breaking In Lonesome on the Dark Shadow Recording label was worth waiting for. It represents a milestone for label owner/producer Stephen Mougin, too. It’s the first release to come out of his sparkling new studio in Goodlettsville, TN. I had a chance to check out the place on a recent visit and came away thinking that with the right equipment and producer, maybe even I would sound amazing. (I was quickly set straight, but that’s another story.)
In any case, the sparkling, crystal-clear quality of the production is merely the icing on a very good musical cake.
Fans of Special C will find a lot to make them feel at home on this CD, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the band’s other members are spread across the album. But every song carries Faris’s own stamp.
Part of that stamp is as a songwriter. Of the dozen cuts, he wrote ten of them and co-wrote one. Many of them are grounded in the blues, but there’s a nice mix of tempos and topics to sustain the efforts and keep the listener engaged.
One of my favorites, If the Kansas River Can, kicks off the CD and nicely sets the tone for the in-the-pocket bluegrass to come, with Faris on guitar and vocals, Justin Moses on banjo and tenor harmony, brother Eddie Faris on bass and baritone harmony, Laura Orshaw on fiddle, and Harry Clark on mandolin. All are top-shelf players but Orshaw’s performance on 10 of the 12 cuts offers a superb resume for upcoming awards consideration.
Another standout is Honeybabe, a swing tune tribute to his wife. This one drives, thanks to Greg Cahill’s banjo work and a solid bass groove from Dan Eubanks. The backstory, too, is engaging. Seems Rick and Nicole were in the choir together in eighth grade, and the choir director told her to elbow Rick “every time I didn’t open my mouth.” So she and that prescient music director can claim at least some of the credit for the way his singing has developed.
There are a handful of other standouts, too, but my overall favorite is the only one Faris didn’t write: How Long, a will-you-wait-for-me plea from three of the best writers in the business these days – Aaron Bibelhauser, Milan Miller and Thomm Jutz. Shawn Lane’s tenor adds to the magic. Don’t be surprised to hear this one on the radio. A lot.
There are a couple of songs that could use a bit more polish lyrically, especially in comparsion with the ones here that really shine. But that’s often the case on projects that are exclusively or mostly the work of one writer.
Overall, though, Breaking In Lonesome, is a gem that should find a home in many collections.
Now, let’s hope that Faris doesn’t wait so long to come back with his next solo effort.