CD REVIEW: Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones - Dogwood Roots
By Cyrus Rhodes - 01/22/2014 - 03:26 PM EST
Artist: Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones
Album: Dogwood Roots
Label: Spectra Records
Genre: Americana rock
Sounds Like: Counting Crows, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, The Fray, Eric Clapton
Technical Grade: 8/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 8/10
Songwriting Skills: 9/10
Performance Skill: 8/10
Best Songs: Dogwood, LA, One Rise Up, April
Weakness: Lack of vocal emotion. Short sided CD
Los Angels based 3 member band Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones just released their latest CD entitled Dogwood Roots in 2013. Following his success as lead guitarist and vocalist for east coast and west coast-based bands, Rob Larkin recruited some of the best musicians in LA to help record his much anticipated album, Dogwood Roots (released in May 2011). The result is a rich musical stew, with ingredients from righteous organ to down-home harmonica, and everything in between. As a testament to its timelessness, the title track "Dogwood" has won the Americana category of the 2011 Show Me the Music Songwriting contest.
The CD gently lifts off the ground with Track 1 “Dogwood” a heartfelt flowing ballad that serves up well placed harmonica, guitar driven groove meshed against walking bass line, effective harmonies and soulful melody from Larkin. Track 2 “Tijuana” shifts gears a bit with steady flowing rhythm, well placed R&B guitar chops and a slamming solo painted against a grand slam chorus making for an impressive follow-up statement. Track 3 “LA” is a heartfelt groove that dishes out a methodical musical build with well placed Hammond Organ, impressive guitar licks and thought provoking lyrical content that flows and ebbs its way through to motional fruition. The CD makes a great first impression dashing out 3 rock solid songs in a row. The musicianship of everyone involved is well above the bar. I would classify this music as classic Pop, Americana, with brief touches of Modern Country and even Saloon Jazz to R&B. Music is reminiscent of classic Counting Crows, John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz and even Billy Joel, The Fray to Eric Clapton. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive Harmonica, organ, impressive rhythm, saloon style piano, solo guitar, impressive R&B guitar licks, well placed Hammond Organ chops, lush harmonies all built upon a thick as a brick rhythm section. What I like the most about this band is how well they seem to groove together, testament to hundreds of hours of writing and rehearsal time no doubt. Now turning our attention over to Larkin - as for his vocal abilities well he’s a great advent. His voice goes down smooth and fills the space peacefully and unobtrusively with an appealing baritone and warm timber that is infectious. All songs are extremely well crafted and consistent across the board - world class songwriting. All songs have much in the way of groove ability. This CD from Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones delivers 10 solid tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety and diversity. The music of Rob Larkin has everything you would expect from a world class musical production. From heartfelt “April” and “Sister Soul” to soulful “One Rise Up” to rock steady “In Too Deep” to grooving “It Spills Out” to hypnotic “Still Here” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 "Taking Me Home” the perfect finale statement for a CD like this.
I recommend Larkin somehow bring more raw vocal emotion to the table on some of his performances, especially during the finale moments of his music. It’s safe to say Larkin fails to rise to the occasion on several songs/moments when he held the listener in the palm of his hands (LA, April, In Too Deep). Unfortunately he elected to play it way to safe avoiding taking any serious risks that would indicate a serious vocal ability. Sometimes you have to take chances with your music. This can be done by providing more vocal peak and valley emotion compatible with the score. Just listen to Joe Cocker’s “You are so Beautiful”, R.E.M “Hairshirt” or “Wait for You” by Mumford and Sons to hear what I’m talking about – surging vocal emotion that builds with the music. At the end of the day people don’t buy paper and plastic, they buy emotion. It's a critical component especially within this genre. CD’s a bit short with 10 Tracks. Perhaps 2-3 more tracks are needed to make it a fully loaded release.
From start to finish "Dogwood” by Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones is a barnburner collection of music. The songwriting – the gold standard, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, and signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalog. The writing and playing abilities from Larkin and company are rock solid. The melodies and harmonies are well crafted, and the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old fashioned conventional wisdom At the end of the day Rob Larkin and the Wayward Ones brings the mojo and is clearly a marquee talent based out of LA. One would be wise to keep a watchful eye on him over the years to come.
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