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CD REVIEW: Chris Andres - Authentic Outlaw Country (EP)

by: Cyrus Rhodes



"powerful, gripping & boldly honest"





Artist: Chris Andres
Album: Authentic Outlaw Country (EP)
Label:  SMT Records

Genre: Acoustic Singer/Songwriter
Sounds Like: Bob Seager, Greg Allman, Lynard Skynard, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, John Cougar, John Prine
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 7/10
Commercial Value: 7/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 7/10
Best Songs: Raised in a Hotel, Destiny
Weakness: Lack of Instrumentation, respective sounding EP, Short sided songs, EP release


Canadian based singer/songwriter Chris Andres just released their latest EP is entitled Authentic Outlaw Country and was released in 2014. Since were on the subject - the term "Outlaw" gets thrown around a lot in the music biz, but if there is an Outlaw movement, then Chris Andres has surely earned his place in this company. He started playing in bars at the age of fourteen, and started touring at the age of fifteen and by the time he was in his early twenties he was being courted by numerous record companies, but all the years of touring and hard living was starting to take its toll and Chris knew he had to make some changes if he was going to have any chance in this highly competitive industry. Since then Chris has developed his own voice and perspective on the way he puts his art out there, with influences like Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen just to name a few.

The CD gently takes flight with “Raised in a Hotel” is a melancholy acoustic intro piece that serves up solitary vocal delivery from Andres that is passionate, up front and very personal. Track 2 “Destiny” keeps things moving along the intimate path with solitary acoustic guitar ambience and Andres passionate voice and thought provoking lyrical content front and center. This track along with Track 3 “Wooden Overcoat” are both striking pieces that flow and ebb their way through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Johnny Cash, Bob Seager, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and John Cougar delivering powerful songs from a male voice and perspective. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. Andres showcase a finger picking guitar approach that fits his  writings style of music perfectly. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life's observations. Overall the catalogue is extremely melancholy but brilliant nonetheless. Besides the voice and the acoustic guitar you will also notice brief splashes of Americana-Blues-Folk guitar ambience and mandolin built upon an impressive finger picking playing style on acoustic guitar. The guitar playing abilities from Andres are conservative but impressive nonetheless. Timing is spot on within each piece. I might add Andres displays an impressive baritone, well timed vibrato and a nitty-gritty timbre. His vocal timer reminds me of a cross between Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen. At times I can even hear Gregg Allman and Lynard Skynard. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Andres is also a very capable songwriter. From striking “Best of Times” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 5 “Dark Train” the perfect finale statement for an EP of this caliber.

There are risks you take when delivering a bare bones musical performance such as this. It’s fair to say more musical depth is often needed to compensate and fill the empty space. Again I can’t help but wonder what some of these songs would sound like with other musical elements behind them. Instruments such as a pedal steel, solo guitar, fiddles, organ, electric piano, piano. slide guitar, harmonica and a few vocal harmonies here and there would add a much needed musical dimension. All of the above could be delivered conservatively, not compromising the intimate format. Due to lack of musical depth the production goes down a bit dry and a tad bit repetitive overall. Again it takes an amazing amount of talent and skill to deliver a bare bones musical production effectively, and for the record it’s truly impressive what Andres has done here with just a guitar and a microphone. All songs under 3 minutes in length feel like incomplete statements to me. I typically deduct 1 star for EP releases. The full length release is typically the best and most complete snapshot to judge an artist by at any given point in time.

The music of Chris Andres will work best on days you want a delicate acoustic sound to fill your atmosphere. "Authentic Outlaw Country" is a brilliant, striking and compelling musical production. Its strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Andres is there is no attempt to hide how she feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Floyd is one of those artists. Be advised you may not want to listen to this CD on the day you get fired, but if you like melancholy music that provides a very real assessment of the human condition then you should jump into the EP head first.  If I could say anything to Andres right now it would be - add a bit more musical flavor to your next production. This can be done without losing the solitary musical foundation.

The real selling point for any song is the (singer to listener) emotional connection. Here experienced artists will execute and make this connection every time. It cannot be faked and has to be totally genuine. At the end of the day people don't buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions. This sums up the music of Chris Andres to a "T."

Cyrus Rhodes

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