Reviews

Rob Lamothe and Dollarstore Hacksaw sculpt a modern Americana soundscape with their album …and The River reveals Herself.

By Peter Harris

October 23, 2018

Throughout a decades-long career, the Rob Lamothe we know as the voice of the Riverdogs and his own solo albums has delivered quality, heartfelt music. Now, with the more than capable contributions of his talented progeny, Lamothe blesses us with a new album entitled and The River Reveals Herself.

I knew to expect soulful, emotive vocals from Rob (although he surprised me in a few places!), but this family collaboration pays dividends. Rose (vocals, keyboards), Zander (vocals, drums, percussion), and Josh (vocals, bass, guitar, and piano), lend tasteful professional accompaniment throughout. Rose’s lilting voice provides a perfect foil for her father’s bluesy vibrato. Zander’s percussion work reminds me of a seasoned session player. He plays just what is right for each song and adds tasteful fills where they are needed. Josh has the ability to hold the root down so effectively on bass that you only become aware of how great his tone is when he weaves out from under the guitars.

The album (due October 27th, 2018) begins with an atmospheric piece “End of Silence”, where sparse guitars ring out over a droning synth and Rose’s delicate voice. This sets the mood for the tonal tapestry that weaves it’s way across the album. While each song stands on it’s own, they are undeniably intertwined. This is not an album with two or three strong tracks, but rather a coherent musical piece meant to be experienced as a whole. The entire record comes across as introspective modern Folk Music, and it takes an active ear to dissect just how much synthesizer and keyboard there is in the foundation. Songs like “Rock Paper Scissors” with its catchy hook, contrast nicely with lingering atmospheric numbers like “Onward (Sometimes I Wonder)”. “Maple Syrup Festival Queen” is propped up with far more electronica than you would assume by the title. It works because it is deftly mixed with crystal clear steel string guitar and intricately layered vocals. While managing to come across as earthy and roots oriented music, Lamothe stacks tons of tracks that are pieced together like a puzzle. Somehow, the end result is organic waves of voicings that wash in and out.

As always Rob Lamothe has a penchant for thought provoking lyrics. The final track for example, makes a sudden about face at the five minute mark, where Rob begins to describe aloud : “red tailed hawk is on the ground, hiding something”. These are lyrics written by someone with a keen eye, capable of recording the little moments in life and tying them into a bigger picture.

I hesitate to call this a rock record, a roots record, or even singer/songwriter fare. It is all of that, but a little bit more. It takes a traditional sound and bolsters it with modern touches and exemplary artistry. and The River Reveals Herself is poetry that is not confined to the spoken word.

Max Ater-Small Town

At the age of 25, singer/songwriter Max Ater seems to have conquered his home state of Maine. Back in 2012 he dominated “Maine’s got Talent!” with an original song, and after some touring released his first EP Up ’till Now. More rave reviews and awards followed.

Now it seems Max is ready to cast his net further, as he prepares to release his new EP, Small Town (Prudential Records). Ater’s songwriting is solid and concise, and the arrangements are pop perfection. This may be due in part to the exemplary production of Karl Anderson. Max deftly combines modern, slick pop sensibility with the story telling approach of country. The out-of-the-gate favorite here is “Easy”. Max has a way of melding expected pop lyrics “Turn the radio up, let your hair down…” with those that express a consciousness of a bigger picture “…this ain’t love, this is right now”.

The sound is crisp and the playing is superb in a minimalist/pop fashion. Ater and Anderson were wise to enlist the talents of aces like drummer Jason Hartless and bassist Greg Smith. Songs on this release such as “Stay a Little Longer”, and “Light Up This Town” have me envisioning this young man at the top of the charts soon. Very soon.

I will leave you with a brief summary which both describes this EP, and gives it my praise:

Fans of new country will never think they are listening to a synth pop record, and for fans of glossy pop, it won’t occur to them they are enjoying country music. Both groups will just sing along and love it. That’s what music is supposed to do.

Written by Peter Harris