It always good to hear a band doing something a little different and in these days of clichés there is the freedom in the breath that is the Riverdogs. Just good ole fashioned blues rock delivered in a smooth yet powerful mood and a good touch of the 70’s for the modern era. Ever since their critically acclaimed debut in 1990 the band released “Bone” in 1993 and then not until 2011 when “World Gone Mad” hit. With the many outside projects it’s easy to see how it has been difficult for the guys to get back into the studio, but when I saw that they were releasing a new album I was excited to hear what the years away would bring to the table. I must say that anything that Vivian Campbell does, for me, is money. There are some guitarists that are mesmerizing with their style and tone and Campbell is definitely one of them. Not to mention the class that this guy brings with his playing. With the band bringing back ¾ of the original line-up the foundation is as strong as ever. The Riverdogs have resurfaced with “California” and this album delivers a fine slice of American Pie.
Opening the album is “American Dream” which is a pure, bad to the bone rocker. With a good kicking groove and memorable chorus chanting “Hey! Hey! Hey! the tune just rolls right off of your tongue. Campbell in typical fashion rips out a solo that has a very 70’s vibe with the chorus pedal full-on and every note just oozes wah wah and vibrato extreme.
My favorite tune on the album, “The Revolution Starts Tonight” accents the vocal ability of Rob Lamothe who reminds me of old school Bon Jovi, John Sykes and Robert Mason all combined into one. It’s a smooth style that delivers a bluesy subtleness and takes the listener directly to the mood of the song; passion and feeling with each note.
This album is an extremely easy listen and “Something Inside” takes me into a state of calm and just oozes a major blues groove. Campbell interjects some really cool guitar fills and the tune rides on a steady wave of pure tone and smoothness. More of the same feel with “Golden Glow,” a mid-tempo driver very reminiscent of modern Bon Jovi.
There is a variance of mood here and there is a swing to the upward with “You’re Too Rock N Roll.” There is an eerie flow with Campbell providing volume swells, Nick Brophy’s bass chugging, intertwined with Lamothe’s soulful vocal taking centerstage. There is similarity in “The Heart Is A Mindless Bird” which also delivers more of the mid-tempo with Marc Danzeisen delivering a nice, off-beat measure up until the bombastic power shifts mid track. This is where Campbell rips out a killer solo and tears it up right until the bitter end.
This album has me right where it wants me, calm and hearing every note that these guys are playing. It is the core of what a finely written piece of music does to you.
Just as I hit a state of calm, the band rips into “Searching For A Signal,” an up-tempo bruiser that powers a straight-forward, booming rocker and more of the same flash riffs that make Vivian Campbell one of the best to ever pick up the instrument.
There is plenty of diversity with the up-tempo opening of “Welcome To The New Disaster,” which rolls smoothly into a cool, foot tapping groove. The true essence of the music is captured by Campbell’s precision solo that rides the perfect wave above the rhythm section; tight and soulful.
There is more of the same with “Ten Thousand Reasons” which has a slightly milder and eerie delivery, but the same mega groove. The band sounds fantastic throughout and the album is a steady and extremely enjoyable listen.
The back half of the album begins, kicking in with a faster-paced riff that is “Catalina,” which has mega-groove and more of the classy, cool delivery by Lamothe who sounds as fresh as the early 90’s. They say that a great voice gets stronger with age and listening to this, I have to agree with the statement.
Hitting the last track, I find it satisfying that I have rewound so many times to enjoy this album and once again I listen to “I Don’t Know Anything” which has the similar, blues-based groove, but this one has a touch of the modern element in its delivery. I cannot say enough about the great Vivian Campbell. The more that I hear this guy play the better he gets. So many different sides to him and this one has so much feel and expression; just pure emotion in every track.
It’s been a while since I had the chance to hear the Riverdogs and having the chance to really sit down and enjoy “California,” I have to admit that the years have been good to this project. The songs are well written, the playing is stellar throughout. Lamothe is just tremendous. How can you go wrong with a great, blues influenced rock album that has Vivian Campbell and a powerful Rhythm section of Nick Brothy and Marc Danzeisen steadying a stellar release? They say good things come to those who wait, well, we have been rewarded with “California” and that has been well worth it.
Nick Brophy: Bass, keys, vocals
Vivian Campbell: Guitars, vocals
Marc Danzeisen: Drums, vocals
Rob Lamothe: Vocals, guitar