Eric Schuurmans – rootstime.be
Bigfork is a town in the U.S. state of Montana and falls administratively under the still partially unspoiled Flathead County. It is the residence of singer/songwriter Randy Lee Riviere -he used to perform as Mad Buffalo- who in the past month, with producer/multi-instrumentalist Grammy winner Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton, Tinsley Ellis, John Hiatt, Big Joe Maher), released his new album “Wyoming. McKendree wrote and was the producer of the instrumental song “Mama, Screw Your Wig On Tight,” which appeared on Lee Roy Parnell’s 1997 album, ‘Every Night’s a Saturday Night.’ The song was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Country Instrumental” in 1997.
The 13 original songs, which he recorded at McKendree’s Rock House studio in Franklin, TN, were backed by McKendree (guitar, piano, organ) himself, James Pennebaker (Delbert McClinton) on pedal steel, fiddle, mandolin and guitar, drummer Kenneth Blevins (John Hiatt) & bassist David Santos. Yates McKendree (the son of) is a “special guest” on one track – “Boys”, the song Michael Ward co-wrote – with a handsome guitar solo.
Initially, everything started for Riviere in the early 2000s as Mad Buffalo, with whom he released four albums. ‘A Good Bad Road’ (2004) is an ode to the rugged road along the western border of Glacier National Park and its hero “Cactus Ed” aka Edward Abbey (1927-1989). Writer and essayist Abbey was known for his advocacy of environmental issues. His best-known work the novel “The Monkey Wrench Gang,” inspired the founding of the radical environmental movement Earth First. ‘Fool Stand’ (2006) was where an intense reading on the tragedy of the civil war converged with the invasion of Iraq and the third album ‘Wilderness’ (2008), was a step towards Americana. The fourth and last was ‘Red and Blue’ (2012), with the title track that speaks for itself.
“Randy Lee Riviere makes it clear to us with his music that he wants to paint a picture of the vast landscape of Wyoming…”
Randy Lee Riviere’s “Wyoming” contains many of the elements of Marty Robbins’ popular country & western style. Throughout the album, Riviere especially expresses his appreciation for the beauty of the American Wild West. His stories-though more poetic and philosophical-are a tribute to the environment, Native Americans and family.
Echoes of Native American chants can be heard in the opener “Lots to Say,” as well as in “Red Rain,” which, with the story of the Native American daughter Red Water who became the leader of her tribe and, harkens back to the darkest and saddest days in the history of the Wild West. In “Our Town,” Riviere sings in a passionate voice, nostalgic and with an angry outlook about the changes in the old town where he grew up, “This is our town. Don’t let them bring it down…”. Very Southern rocks “Keep Your Eyes on Your Station” and “Boys”, with some of Lou Reed’s voice, is about his sons growing up. Almost like Neil Young he sounds in “What I Want” and including the Crazy Horse feel on “Riverdale”. Enjoy James Pennebaker’s steel guitar extensively on “Eighth Wonder” and “Dependence Day.” “Morning” sums everything up one more time when it comes to what will never be again. The title track “Wyoming” is a song that takes you on a journey without lyrics, perfectly summing up the mood of the album and bringing everything to a satisfying conclusion.
Randy Lee Riviere was clearly ready for something different after Mad Buffalo. Under his own name, he recorded the very personal and emotional “Wyoming” with producer Kevin McKendree. It became a journey through the now less “Wild West” where country, Americana and rock elements fused into contemporary country & western that would have surprised even Marty Robbins.