Rick Fines – Solar Powered Too | Album Review

Rick Fines – Solar Powered Too

Self-Release – 2021

12 tracks; 43 minutes


Canadian Rick Fines has been recording since the late 80’s, both solo and in bands. His fourteenth album was mainly recorded off-grid at a solar-powered home studio in the woods: the title presumably refers back to a 2006 album entitled Solar Powered. Rick mainly recorded with co-producer Alec Fraser who suggested that some of his songs would work well with a rhythm section, so five tracks were recorded in Toronto with additional musicians. Rick recorded with a number of guitars but concentrates on resonator which he used on seven cuts.

Rick handles all lead vocals and guitars, Alec plays bass on six tracks and adds backing vocals to two; Gary Craig plays drums on five, Jimmy Bowskill plays mandola, mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel on three tracks, Roly Platt adds harp to two, Rob Phillips piano to one, Melissa Payne and Suzie Vinnick sing on one track each and backing vocals on one further track are by Stacie Tabb, Samantha Martin and Sherie Marshall. The sound is crystal clear throughout and Rick’s weathered voice reminds you of mid-period Dylan as he sings eleven originals, five written solo and six with collaborators P.J. Thomas, Grainne Ryan and Matt Andersen; the sole cover is a Jesse Winchester tune.

First of all, the six tracks recorded in the woods.“Below The Surface” is a thoughtful opener, the lyrics play on the notion of the sun coming up and the moon going down below the horizon and people keeping their feelings hidden. The resonator is the perfect instrument for “Worry Be The Death Of Me”, the blues element further underlined by Roly’s overdubbed harp. The solo “Laundry On The Line” is an Americana piece with melancholy lyrics about an elderly person passing away while her laundry is left out, Rick concluding that you have to “keep moving because you can’t sit still…until you just sit still”.

“Fundamental Nature” finds Rick reflecting on the wonders of the animal kingdom all around us with the elegant tones on his resonator the sole accompaniment (though you can just discern the gentle tapping of his foot). “Dark Days” explores some appropriately ‘down’ images in another solo resonator piece with Roly’s overdubbed harp adding some eerie high register sounds that make you think for a moment that a flute is present! “One Lone Loon” adds pedal steel to another rather mournful Americana tune while “Scared To Dance” was recorded in a Toronto studio and its jaunty rhythms and positive lyrics make an upbeat end to the album.

The first track with additional musicians simply puts a rhythm section behind Rick’s dexterous picking on the resonator while he sings very positively about how he will “Live Forever” now that he has found a soulmate. The Jesse Winchester cover is a fetching version of “That’s What Makes You Strong”, the mandola adding a high end over the Cuban tres and acoustic work, Melissa Payne joining in on the chorus. Rick’s resonator is supported by piano and heavier drums on “You Only Want Me When You Need Me” which rolls along well with the trio of backing vocalists adding to the chorus, undoubtedly the catchiest tune on the album, though the country feel of “Yellow Moon, Indigo Sky” with fiddle and mandolin runs it close; the country rhythms remain on “Never Let Go”.

This album is not pure blues but covers country and Americana also. Rick Fines offers us a well played, engaging album with thoughtful songs that cover a range of themes.

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