Review: Rodney Rice buttons it down with second album

Downhome and doggone good: “SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY,” by Rodney Rice.
Photo by Bob Delevante

Rodney Rice has an affinity for writing songs with catchy, humorous choruses amiably sung by a raspy yet silvery voice.

Rice is a country-folk artist who released his second album last month, “SAME SHIrT DIFFERENT DAY,” which has 12 original songs that sound like they pour from him as easy and natural as they did from his influences John Prine and Billy Joe Shaver.

Prine and Shaver died in a year further marred by a global pandemic and nationwide tumult stemmed from cruel political theater. Yet 2020 is lifted by an abundance of great new music by wide-awake, locked-down songwriters.

Rice’s record aptly opens with a shorted Chuck Berry-like guitar riff joined with exaggerated, disjointed drum blasts and then a verse, “A man from TV, now he’s president; the Bible Belt thinks he’s heaven sent. Because he made lots of money, he’s going to take our troubles away. By the sound of that, our troubles are here to stay.”

“I wanted that song to be first on the album and I wanted to put it out there to say if you’re offended there then you probably don’t need to listen to the rest,” Rice said in a press statement.

Those who stick around to hear more are treated next to “Hard Life,” a song so melodic it all seems like a chorus. Put it in a movie. Put it of the radio. Put it in the annual music awards listings. This is one of those philosophic, soundtrack-of-life tunes.

From this point, listeners will be hooked and likely to play the whole recording and put it on repeat.

Positives: The brilliant songs are complemented by exceptionally tasteful arrangements and superb musicianship. For example, “Can’t Get Over Her” is a quintessential country drinking song — “Make it a double gin, the future’s looking so damn thin, and I can’t get over her while she’s lying next to him.” — with pedal steel (Mark Hardwick) and baritone guitar (Andre Moran) accentuating the mood. “Company Town,” a soulfully, poignant blue-collar tale of a fatal mining accident in Rice’s native state West Virginia, has a gospel bent with trumpet (Erik Telford) tenor sax (Marcus Cardwell) and Wurlitzer (Austin De Lone).

Negatives: For and album filled with clever songs, the title, “SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY,” is rather corny. I’d get the joke even without the caps. I also get that Rice is greatly influenced by Prine, who played the first concert he ever saw: “We were in the last row but you never felt like you were in the last row at a John Prine show.” Rice’s song “Rivers Run Backwards” is nice but such a straight-ahead homage to Prine that it’s nearly a cliché.

Upshot: Rodney Rice is sensitive, dog-loving guy with a sharp, insightful wit. Give his new album a listen and become a fan.

  • Rodney Rice
  • ‘SAME SHIrT, Different Day’
  • Release: Oct. 23, 2020
  • Label: Moody Springs Music
  • Favorite tracks: ‘Hard Life,’ ‘Company Town’

“SAME SHIrT, DIFFERENT DAY” was produced and engineered by Andre Moran at Austin’s famed Congress House Studio in the heart of Austin, where Rice also recorded his 2014 debut release, Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind. Joining Rice (vocal/acoustic guitar/harmonica) on the album are Rick Richards (drums), Tom Crall (upright bass), David Carroll (bass), Andrew Moran (electric & slide guitar, percussion), Mark Hallman (Hammond B3, upright piano, octave mandolin, mandola bgvs), Marcus Cardwell (tenor sax), Erik Telford (trumpet), Eddie Dickerson (fiddle), Jeff Plankenhorn (dobro), Bonnie Whitmore (bgv).

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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