The Ranchhands - Driven
By George Peden
There comes a time, a defining time, and a revealing truth in the life of most musical artists. It’s known as the third album. An artist’s first release can whet audience interest, creating the ripple to move a career in the needed direction. The second album normally rides on the success of that ripple. The interest first created ensures (hopefully, fingers crossed and with a sackful of luck) the second will become a building block to musical survival. The second album is important. There’s no doubt about that. But it’s not as important as the make-or-break third album; that’s the one that seals the fate. Succeed or sink; it’s often that simple.
The Ranchhands have just released their third album. It’s out on Farmer’s Market Music.
This popular Nashville duo of Mickey Kennedy on vocals (he’s been on the last two albums) and Chris Tedesco on fiddle, mandolin and vocals (he’s been there since day one), propped with an assortment of talented players, can rest easy. Driven is a stellar offering. It’s 10 Tedesco cuts that comes tagged, deservedly, New Country. And it’s an album sure to build on the band’s wide European acceptance and growing American fan base.
With Tedesco’s duel talent cache of songwriter and guiding fiddle player, alongside Kennedy’s emotive and rock-tinged vocals, the pair is quickly proving that 3 may be the luckiest number of all.
With this album comes not only renewed energy, but Tedesco proves, convincingly, he knows his way around the hooks, melodies and catchy elements of modern country. Tracks like “Back Porch State Of Mind”, a charged rocker catching the ache of hard work coupled to softer images of a one arm rocking chair easing onto views of rolling green, is a winning opener. But while this album offers toe-tapping fare for the rug movers – listen to “Welcome To The Middle,” the electric “Mary’s Northway Diner”, or the virtuoso instrumental “Paradise” for proof – it’s in the mellow moments The Ranchhands show their worth.
“When Everything Changed” tells of pain and despair in a lover’s death. It shows Tedesco can write a poignant tune and Kennedy can carry emotion. More of the same comes with “Bigger Man”. BM is a wholesome mix of neat playing and a tale of a kid who’s strength comes with bullying – only to prove another kind of strength, the adult kind, by leaving a legacy of selfless devotion to his fellow man. It’s a touching tune. But more than that it shows, as a songwriter, Tedesco’s apprenticeship is nearing mature completion.
In 2002 I was caught up with the first album, The Ranchhands. I loved 2004’s, Back Home. Now five years on, Driven proves the superstitious can relax. Good things do come in 3’s.