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.
Thanks Gold. If his home base is in LA I can definitely understand now why…
Here's a link to the record. http://ponychase.bandcamp.com/album/parade…
Cherub is amazing!!! Check out their video for Doses and Mimosas!!!
He lives in L.A.
Cool. Is Mr. Grohl still based in Seattle? Seattle and Nashville should become sister cities…