I’ve listened to Ron Pope off and on for several years. I like his Americana roots sound and I think he’s at his best singing over a single guitar in front of a crowd.
Ron Pope & The Nighthawks was released on January 8, 2016. It’s his first album with his new band, after a decade long solo career. Ain’t No Angel is the first single off the album. Videos for Bad Intentions and Hotel Room have been released as well.
I wanted to like this album a lot more than I did. There is some really nice Americana/folk pop on this album . I loved tracks like Hotel Room and Lies and Cigarettes. But then I get hit with songs that I really don’t like, like Bad Intentions.
Also, I felt like Pope hit kind of a rut at some point when writing this album. It felt like there were too many references to cocaine, to the point where I started wondering if this was a Johnny Paycheck album.
Overall, this is a stream it album for me. I’m going to take the songs I like and put them in a playlist and revisit the ones I don’t like again in six months to a year and see if I still feel that way.
Recommendation: Stream It
Songs I have a Playlist For: Hotel Room, Lies and Cigarettes, Leave You Behind, Take Me Home
Clunkers I will thumbs down: Bad Intentions, Ain’t No Angel
Let me preface this by saying that I am admittedly not a giant Dylan fan. I like individual songs (Boots of Spanish Leather is a particular favorite, for instance), but Dylan isn’t someone I play when I just want to sit around and listen to music. Not even folk music.
I thought it was weird that Dylan released what is essentially a Sinatra tribute album when I came across it. The crooner sound is not something you would associate with Dylan for purely aesthetic reasons – he doesn’t have a crooner’s voice. I will allow that it’s perfectly reasonable for Bob Dylan to be fond of that music. It was very popular in his formative years. Heck, I like a lot of Sinatra’s music. But it wouldn’t occur to me that Dylan would try and make a crooner album. But he did. And honestly, it’s probably the least successful thing I’ve ever heard from Dylan. And remember, I’m not a giant Dylan fan.
The orchestration and music production of the album is fine. In fact, Dylan and his musicians play excellent backing music for these songs. The problem is entirely in the singing. Dylan is not a great singer to begin with. I didn’t think the phrasing on these songs was very well done. And I didn’t feel that Dylan’s limited vocal range was appropriate to the music.
I guess Dylan aficionados will accept anything he does. There are certainly a lot of reviews on the internet that were appreciative, even gushing for this album. But I just didn’t like it. If Dylan had done this album as instrumental, I would have liked it a lot more. As I said, the musicianship was excellent. But his weak singing, poor phrasing, and limited vocal range simply didn’t work on this album for me. I like Dylan best when the material can hide his vocal limitations, and this album contains nothing in that works for me.