When not wearing his country music cowboy hat, Fine is actually an academic medical doctor specializing in internal medicine and gastroenterology and he's also a nutritional expert who runs his own organic farm. One of the crops Fine raises on his farm are organic blueberries that he cleverly markets under the Dr. Blueberry brand. So let's just go ahead and say it; his music is berry berry good too! Brand New Road begins with "The Ballad of the Tennessee Texans," a cut that starts with some Buck Owens-style picking and works its way into a swinging dance groove featuring both an organ and a piano solo from keys man Jim Cox. Fine is still on the dance floor for the steel guitar-enhanced "You Gotta Be Good," the '60s-informed old-style country of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down (In My Rear View Mirror)" and the extremely catchy "If I Ever Loved You (I'll Always Love You)." A couple of songs are rocked up pretty good but "Real Love and Lovers" shows that Fine is comfortable with a slow and emotional ballad too. Fine wrote all the songs here, and the lack of pretention in the generous 15-cut offering is refreshing. You might say that Brand New Road is just what the doctor ordered.
A Lone Voice
Kronowitt is an established Americana artist, a singer, songwriter and guitarist with a penchant for making political statements without conveying anger or preachiness; in fact he generally gets his point across in a fun way. Not that there's anything fun about the situation with all the shootings going on in the US right now, but Kronowitt's protest song "Got Guns?" is jangly and an easy sing-along with biting lyrics like "Don't tell me you're too young/If you've got a hand, get a gun." With a song title that plays on the "Got milk?" slogan, Kronowitt makes the statement that gun violence has become all too ubiquitous even before he starts singing. The John Mellencamp-like "Necessary Evils" is another cut filled with political commentary although it paints with a wider brushstroke, and "The Beast" laments current events with a Jimmy Buffett tone. Not everything here is about the state of the world; the tender "You Are Here" is a hopeful cut that reminds that it is possible (and a good idea) to look around and see the beauty of living in the moment. Some listeners will hear the call to action here but all can certainly enjoy Kronowitt's fine voice just as pure entertainment.
Who You Were
Rhodes has a soulful and somewhat raspy voice that adds gravitas to the stories he tells in songs like "Backroad," an ominous-sounding tale of an endless sequence of moving on after spending time with the preacher's daughter, the truck driver's daughter, and so on. The overall theme of the album is definitely itinerancy, obvious in cuts like "Crumbling Road" and "Roll On;" less so in the spiritually restless cut "Embrace the Judas." A bluegrass vibe permeates "Lay it Down" and "New Aphrodite" has a jaunty jangle that mimics the high of savoring a new love, and the album is about equally split between songs that are hopeful and songs that are remorseful. The common denominator is Rhodes' voice, easy to get comfortable with, and no doubt lots of new fans will be doing just that.