Scrappy Jud Newcomb
Ride the High Country (Freedom)
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Sept. 26, 2008
Scrappy Jud NewcombRide the High Country (Freedom)
Scrappy Jud Newcomb's previous disc, 2005's Byzantine, was a high point in the Austin guitarist's career. Everything about it – songwriting, guitar play, vocals – was as sturdy and cogent as anything he's ever done. In it's wake, Ride the High Country, his third solo album, is a bit of a letdown. Newcomb still has the twangy, Stonesy riff rockers down cold, and his occasional ballads drip desire in most of the right places. Yet Ride's songs seem less focused and, at times, unfinished. Bruce Hughes' bass boom, a herky-jerky rhythm, and slinky guitar give "Where Did the Time Go" a Dire Straits feel that's a departure, but the meditative "Could I Write the Song" and confessional "Out Here" come across as strained and detached. Ultimately, Ride the High Country mirrors the work of Newcomb's Resentments bandmate Jon Dee Graham, only without the high-powered consistency of vision and tunefulness.