Released: June 2014
Now on his third solo record separate to his work with The Black Crowes and other such projects, Rich Robinson seeks to celebrate the music he loves and that inspires him, as made clear in this twelve track long love letter to American guitar music of the mid to late twentieth century. Recalling bluegrass, rockabilly and even gospel music, on The Ceaseless Sight seesRobinson enjoying himself musically, whilst lyrically exploring some inner emotional depths.
It’s easy to try to modernise albums that reach so far into the past. Often acts take from their influences and add a more updated edge to their sound (see Jack White, Oasis, Tame Impala), and this is what makes them work. Sometimes, however, we can forget that there’s a reason something worked the first time, and Rich Robinson seems more than aware of this as he blasts through the rockabilly vibes of opener I Know You. This track sets a precedent that remains throughout the duration of the record, with old school country merriment high on Robinson’s agenda.
Perfectly aware that the country elements of his songs are over half a century old, the singer knows he needs to shake things up somehow. The almost prog rock sounds of mid album tracks In Comes the Night and Inside see the LP progress into something more effects driven than the rawness of its opening third, whilst I Remember celebrates ballsy American anthems from Springsteen to Foo Fighters, putting to rest any fears that The Ceaseless Sight is going to produce the same jingle-jangle country sound throughout. Epic solos are in abundance on such tracks, the superb guitar work on the final number Trial and Faith not only exemplifying Robinson’s prowess on six strings but also his ability to balance technical display with the texture of his tracks; rarely does the album feel indulgent when the guitar takes centre stage.
Contrasting with the sweet summer sounds that characterise the vast majority of tracks on the album are Robinson’s lyrics. Amidst the jaunty percussion and brittle twanging guitars are introspective verses that explore love, separation and personal discovery. Some of it sounds a little rushed; overused metaphors on throwaway lines such as “Into the day we’ll ride away/And never go backwards on our road again” come across as generic, perhaps subordinate to the instrumentation. However as Robinson compares his lover to “poison” on This Unfortunate Show and hints at religious philosophy in the record’s closing track it’s clear that when he makes the effort Robinson is capable of producing poetry far superior to your average Gallagher-style rhyming couplet.
Apart from the slick production from Robinson himself, The Ceaseless Sight is a record rooted in American classics that keeps things as simple and old school as possible. The Black Crowes man continues to shine on lead guitar, and even though his lyrics may occasionally suffer as a result, the technical complexity of the instrumentation on most tracks must be applauded. What’s even more impressive is that it’s all done with effortless flair.