Fog & Bling
Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., June 28, 2019
On "I'm Clean," it's as clear as looking in a mirror that Kevin Russell has become the Austin equivalent of Memphis soul goofball Rufus Thomas (1917-2001): an unfathomably funky individual with off-the-charts charisma and a knack for clever lyricism – not to mention a penchant for colorful suits. "Clean as a preacher's socks/ Clean as the keys to the prison's locks/ Clean as a gin drink on the rocks," sings the ex-Gourd on LP five fronting his Shinyribs troupe.
Russell's uncanny way with words continues on "Hoods of Cars," wherein he taps youthful nostalgia from the philosophical vantage point of reclining atop a Pontiac. Over the track's horn-fueled groove, the singer unleashes a flurry of vocalizations – "B-r-r-r-r-r! Ah-ah, ah-ah" – that rival the ad-libs of modern trap artists. Yung Thug eat your heart out.
Follow-up to 2017's I Got Your Medicine, the Ribs' latest obscures any obvious favorite. Nothing here quite rivals the transcendence of "Take Me Lake Charles" from 2013 breakout LP Gulf Coast Museum or "Poor People's Store" from its preceding bow Well After Awhile three years earlier. Nevertheless, Fog & Bling relates the shoulder-shaking, multi-genre communion of the Austin Music Awards' reigning, two-time Band of the Year winners and their live performances, and serves as a remarkably consistent playlist.
"Highway of Diamonds" evokes Van Morrison singing an escapist daydream over a C6th tuning and stands as the 10-track collection's most beautiful song. Meanwhile, the candlelit R&B of "Crazy Lonely" decries a magic-is-gone relationship on a heart-wrenching sleeper. On that cut and several thereafter, backing vocal duo Alice Spencer and Kelley Mickwee deliver harmonies that at times out-bling their bandleader. No easy task, that.