Andrew Riverstone – Andrew Riverstone
Atlantic Highway Records – 2020
9 tracks; 40:53
Singer/guitarist Andrew Riverstone is blues-influenced, but doesn’t wear those influences on his sleeve on his self-titled album, a collection of pretty, low-key songs that float between blues, Americana, and rock, held aloft by a soulful voice and tasteful guitar playing.
Riverstone is British, with a background in session work, and pulls from American sounds, as well as fellow British artists who latched on to music from the other side of the Atlantic. Riverstone’s songwriting tends to settle in around interesting grooves that are based around drum beats and vocal lines that let the listener float along. It’s low-key without being dull.
On a track like “Waiting On The Other Side (Heavy Stone),” that means beautiful melodies that twist and turn but don’t jostle. There’s a 90s alt-rock energy that’s defused by Riverstone’s chill vocal approach, which makes the song feel relaxed. His guitar is similarly right there with his singing, often repeating his vocal melodies, but otherwise providing counterpoint that energizes the track without distracting from the song. There are undeniable flashes of guitar chops, here and across the album, but Riverstone tends to stick to his session roots, and not stray too far from the song.
Riverstone does have some moments where he stretches out musically, though. “Guitar Solos And Other Sins” is one area, unsurprising given a song title that’s a green light for extended musical interludes. The track is acoustic slide guitar paired with electric, all over a haunting groove, transitioning into a poppy, electric guitar solo, finally returning to the cool slide riff. In many ways, it feels like a big wink to the listener, his long guitar solo a bit of a sin, especially since it makes the track feel like two different songs welded together, but the self-awareness buys some patience with the concept.
His cover of “Midnight Special” also uses some bluesy slide. Where the famous Creedence version kept a brisk tempo, but Riverstone lays back here. The song still echoes the Creedence version, but digs back to the standard’s bluesier roots. Having said that, no one is going to mistake this for Lead Belly’s version. This is more Riverstone going down a blues layer from Creedence into the bands and sounds that influenced their work. But Riverstone isn’t taking his version all of the way back to the early 20th century.
Riverstone is a thoughtful performer, making sure everything sounds just right. He also played every instrument on the album, which is impressive. But sometimes a little friction creates more excitement in a track, even at the expense of sonic perfection and some more mistakes and conflict within the songs might give the album a sense of danger that would ratchet up the energy. Obviously, it’s hard to butt heads musically when you’re working solo, but Riverstone might consider more band-driven recording to add some sandpaper to his solid songs.