Review by Ben Ohmart at www.atnzone.com
When I first saw the CD cover -
tons of guitars - I was a little fearful, thinking that I'd be getting a big taste of hard
rock or metal. Not my favorites. But then I plugged in - the best thing to do with a CD.
No, nothing really hard here, just a lot of catchy, rock-inspired do it yourself tunes.
Andrew's voice is certainly indie in origin, which is why I like it SO much. An
individual. Plus, he knows how to play. In fact, he knows how to do everything - because
he's done it all. With the aid of a Tascam 38 8-track, Andrew has done it all himself, and
the event is one to applaud. His cover sheet tells that he put more than a thousand hours
of effort into this project, and you can hear the love among the guitar oriented rock.
'Rising Tide' is just one of many songs that stick in your head. Maybe I pick on this one because it's over 4 minutes, so there's more of a good thing. Then again, the lyrics paint a fun story of 'blind ambition ruled by pride, he keeps a pistol by his side / in this land under the gun, there's many people on the run / leftist guerrillas and car bombs / there is no right out of two wrongs / in the night you live in fear, and one day you'll disappear.' The rest of the album isn't so political, don't worry. It's an album a bit like Jeff Beck, influenced by lots of blues and jazz, and a restrained form of wild guitar that only gets better the more absorbed you become in the style. I'm listening to the instrumental 'Coulda Shoulda Woulda' and I am severely reminded of some of the instrumental, guitar, progressive albums I used to have. So, please! Download an mp3 or 2 for yourself, and decide to order the album made straight from sweat and hot picks.
Review by Bob Mckenzie for Sound Bytes
Sometimes it's just not a duck, no matter what it walks like and looks like.
Sometimes it's just not a duck, no matter what it walks like and looks like. The music of Andrew Riggs is like that. His AXIOLOGY looks and sounds at first like it should be a blues album of the contemporary sort released by folks like Colin James and Ray Bonneville. Riggs appears rather to think of himself as a rock composer and player and describes the music on this release as "mainly guitar oriented rock" although he then tags on a half-dozen qualifications. It's that sort of music: even the artist is unable to encumber it with a genre classification.
Andrew Riggs' music sounds most like the heavy blues British rock bands began playing in the early Sixties and that gradually began to be played by North American bands as well. Bands like John Mayall's Blues Breakers, The Yardbirds, and others discovered a slough of American electric bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and Willie Dixon and older artists like Robert Johnson and began to perform their music in authentic style but with rock instrumentation. From these bands came stars like The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and many more.
While it may have a retro feel to it, Riggs music stands up well today, offering an alternative style to what other contemporary artists playing. In a way, it's the other side of the looking glass. Listening to many contemporary bluesmen, I feel they think they are playing authentic blues but are really playing rock and roll with a blues edge. Here is an artist who thinks he is playing rock, but sounds more like he's playing the blues with that Sixties rock edge.
This is heavy blues, driving blues with all the force of the old songs like "Crossroads" or "Whipping Post." At times, I'm reminded of hard-rocking Canadian blues bands like the old McKenna Mendelson Mainline, The Mandala, or Mahogany Rush in their heyday. At times, there's a sound approaching the heavier end of Jethro Tull's repertoire ("Rising Tide"), but without the flute. At other times, Riggs' ragged voice is reminiscent of David Clayton Thomas ("Damn Your Eyes"), raw with hard living, hard drinking, and barroom smoke. Lacking the sameness one finds in many newer blues releases, Andrew Riggs' AXIOLOGY features a varied and interesting program.
While most of the songs were written by Riggs, he also covers two blues classics. Blind Willie McTell's "Broke Down Engine" hasn't the edge it could have, and so sounds soft. In contrast, Riggs' cover of "Trouble in Mind" is just good rock and roll. This song has been covered by more singers than I can count and Riggs treatment stands up to most, if not all of them. His slow rocking style on this number reminds me most of Sam Cooke around 1957.
There are also two instrumental numbers included, the electric "Coulda Shoulda Woulda" and the acoustic "Icewater" (which also includes "electric" effects such as a substantial amount of reverb and, I think, overdubbing). Both are interesting pieces in themselves but are overshadowed by the sung pieces on the release. The program also includes a reggae blues ("Hearts of Darkness"), a sweet ballad that could have been written seventy years ago ("Around About Midnight"), and a range of rocking blues styles. Over all, AXIOLOGY has the feel of a raw-edged blues band, a neat trick since budget-constrained Riggs played all the instruments himself without losing the spontaneous sense of a live performance.
In another sense, though, the recording feels too clean. This is a problem I often notice with digital technology. Producers and engineers are to eager to use all the toys and to clean everything up. All too often, while cleaning out the "bad" noise, they clean out a few good sounds too. This can give the recording an indefinable empty sound. Everything that should be there is present, yet there is, as some of my musician colleagues say, not enough "room" -- that thing that gives the music a sense of context. There could be more "room" in this recording.
Especially for those interested in guitar based blues and rock, Canadian composer Andrew Riggs is worth a listen.
Review by Frank
'Around About Midnight'/'Opportunity'
Every once in a while you hear some player, some songwriter, some singer and you can't get it the first time around. But something makes you listen again and the second time you realize there was too much going on the first time to ingest it all. Listen to Andrew Riggs once and you might not like him. Listen twice and you realize this guy is for real and you have to like him, his material and how he addresses it all. Here is an accomplished guitar player who has decided to toss away the sheet music and let himself loose in a raw and rusty musical theater. At first the voice makes you uneasy. Then it starts to make sense and that is very much the way originality hits anyone. First a turn of the head and a 'What?' then acceptance and enjoyment. 'Around About Midnight' is a live-sounding song that seems to be being written on the spot, too. That's jazz-improv talent. 'Opportunity,' however, is a well-crafted piece of jazz in motion, experimental, active and proof that Riggs is an A-1 guitar player with no boundaries. And hey, he is singing some very good lyrics. Imagery abounds clearly and crisply and holy shit can this guy play! He is a player's dream and a player's nightmare all in one. Grab a beer or a scotch, make the room candle-lighted, put your feet up, drink, smoke, whatever and just listen. If it doesn't take you somewhere, you are nowhere, man.