Ron Etheridge has more soul in a few bars of lyrics than most can pack into a full album. It’s not a contrived, studio created soul; it’s from deep down within -- the well most folks are too scared to even peer into, for lack of self-courage or confidence alone. Etheridge possesses a voice built for country soul and rootsy rock and roll. The 33-year-old Mississippi native is literally days off of an impressive Hard Rock Café Battle of the Bands victory in Memphis, TN, beating out three full bands, by his lonesome, accompanied by just a loyal guitar or piano and a head full of crafty songs.
Newly a member of Hill Country Records’ stable of artists, Etheridge and label owner/producer Ted Gainey hit the studio with some impressive musicians to make A Madman’s Masterpiece. Etheridge’s first record on the label is a gem. Transparent songwriting is a key to any good record. If you’re not putting the truest you into those bars the dishonesty can be sniffed out for miles. I pride myself on having a knack for that -- be it God given or idiot savant. I’ll take it. Etheridge, Gainey, and the entire Hill Country Records stable for that matter, are making REAL music, for themselves and ultimately for people like us. We are the new punk rock -- all of us. Do it yourself.
Channeling his heroes Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, save for Mississippi’s rich and endless myriad of gospel and blues influences,A Madman’s Masterpiece is just that. A consummate road warrior, Etheridge is the embodiment of a man on a mission. He’s made his living travelling the nation and playing anywhere and everywhere from street corner busking to theaters and concert halls. A good day to Etheridge is just making sure there’s someone to play for.
The disc opens with an autobiographical “Golden Years,” a pure rock number complete with sailing guitar riffs and fills, and it seems at first out of place but Etheridge’s lyrics ultimately reel everything in to tug at your heart strings and tell the story. “Here’s to our lives, our kids and wives, here’s to the music that saved our lives / here’s to the songs that saved our soul, the same thing that made us whole.”
Amen, Ron Etheridge.
(+Words: Scott Zuppardo+)
(As featured at No Depression 3/23/15)