Album Review: Ron Pope & The Nighthawks – Ron Pope & The Nighthawks

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

Shadows in the Night by Bob Dylan

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.