Riff Riders,
Hit the Road
(independent, 2016)

The Erie, Pennsylvania-based Riff Riders are well named; their approach to blues rock appears to be to find a riff and repeat it endlessly through a familiar bluesy tune, breaking for solos, and then moving back to the riff. Sometimes a separate riff is set up for the chorus, but they always return to the main pattern.

It creates a certain familiarity. The familiarity, though, exceeds the riff. The guitar on the ballads, especially "Cut Me Down," calls to mind T-Bone Walker while the harmonica reminds you of Charlie Musselwhite. The singer, Amy "Shally" Shallenberger, seems to be enamored of Janis Joplin's singing but doesn't have the vocal flexibility to pull off a Joplin; she remains always in the blues-shouter mode, substituting shouting for singing. In all, the effect this band creates is that of a group of students of blues-rock desperately searching for originality.

Of course, all blues is rooted in the past; the best of it, though, uses those roots to grow something new and unique, something that connects us to the artists playing it. Riff Riders miss that connection.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

5 March 2016

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