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Brandon Rhyder

Head Above Water – 2010 (Thirty Tigers)

Reviewed by Andrew W. Griffin

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CDs by Brandon Rhyder

On Brandon Rhyder's last album, "Every Night," there was an underlying slickness that was appealing on the surface, but when you got right down to it, it didn't come across as wholly authentic. Really, it was 2005's "Conviction" that got Rhyder a lot of attention. Rhyder hit a home run, having employed Texas treasure Walt Wilkins to produce. On his latest, Rhyder and Wilkins work together again, and the results are musical magic.

Let it be said that Rhyder has one of the most unique voices in Texas/Red Dirt music. It's a soulful vibrato that will stick with you. Chugging along like an alterna-pop gem from the mid-1990's, Rhyder and his backing band really embrace each lyric and note on Rock Angel.

The spare, title track finds Rhyder telling his love how much she means to him. He then peps things up on heartfelt You Burn Me.

Hailing from the town of Carthage, Texas, Rhyder harkens back to his country upbringing on It's The Country That Saves Me, singing: "It ain't nothing but a little slice of heaven on rolling hills / full of pine tree, dirt road, back wood thrills." It's a little slice of Texas country music that is bound to connect with a lot of his rural route fans.

Love, family, home. These are the key themes running through the music. And while there are 12 tracks here, a 13th song, Queen Of My Roost, is probably the most unique song Rhyder has ever offered. A sort of prog-rock-Dixieland-jazz mix, it's a musical morsel that reminds listeners what an important singer-songwriter Brandon Rhyder really is.