News & Reviews

Randy Lee Riviere – Blues Sky

By Eric Schuurmans.

Bigfork is a place in the state of Montana and administratively falls under the still partly untouched Flathead County. There lie the roots of – he describes himself as – “country boy singer-songwriter” Randy Lee Riviere, who now also lives part-time in Tennessee and who delivers a mix of musical styles that is difficult to define. As a musician, everything initially started for Riviere after the turn of the century as Mad Buffalo, with which he released four albums. “A Good Bad Road” (2004) was an ode to the rugged road along the western border of Glacier National Park and its hero, writer, essayist and environmentalist “Cactus Ed” aka Edward Abbey (1927-1989). On ‘Fool Stand’ (2006) Riviere talked about the invasion of Iraq and with the third album ‘Wilderness’ (2008), he took a step towards Americana. The fourth and (so far!) last was ‘Red and Blue’ (2012), with a title that speaks for itself.

In 2021, RL Riviere released ‘Wyoming’. He recorded it with – with whom he now collaborates more often – producer, multi-instrumentalist and Grammy winner Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton, Tinsley Ellis, John Hiatt, Big Joe Maher). In McKendree’s Rock House studio in Franklin (TN), Riviere was backed by McKendree himself, multi-instrumentalist James Pennebaker (Delbert McClinton), drummer Kenneth Blevins (John Hiatt) & bassist David Santos. Yates McKendree (the son of) does a very nice guitar solo on one track. Throughout the album, Riviere sings about his recognition of the beauty of the American Wild West in his poetic and philosophical stories.

‘Blues Sky’ (2023), the successor, is still difficult to define in terms of style, given that he ventured into new territory, but “blue” through and through. Riviere worked (again) with Kevin McKendree for this. Randy Lee provided vocals and guitar in a four-part setting that is enhanced by the vocals of the McCrary Sisters (Ann, Regina & Freda), the soul and gospel singers from Nashville. In addition to duties as producer, McKendree also provides guitar and keyboards.

With “American Redoubt”, ‘Blues Sky’ opens with a song that floats on a rigid and catchy riff that is guaranteed by Riviere’s trusted rhythm section (drummer Kenneth Blevins & bassist David Santos). “You’re So Kind” and “Do or Don’t” then roll out of the speakers with heavy dragging riffs, while McKendree and Riviere deliver sharp guitar work. On “Needless” Riviere, which he shows in the lyrics he sings and in his guitar playing, is clearly dissatisfied. The same applies to “Spit Shine”, in which Randy Lee mocks materialism, pretension and pride. With “Just One More Time” it seems as if there is a change in style and tempo halfway through the track list. In this subdued ballad, Riviere shows a different, more sensitive side. With “Old Country’s Son” and “Rocky’s Road” two powerful and catchy rockers follow, with a nod to Neil Young in the company of his Crazy Horse. “’What You Know About Pain? It sounds like “Joseline” left a big impression. Finally, “Cold Cold River” is an emotional gospel-tinged ballad. Kevin McKendree carries the melody from behind his organ and vocally Ann, Regina & Alfreda McCrary, three of the four surviving McCrary sisters from Nashville, complete the song.

Original Review »