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Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight

Paradise City – 2016 (Hot Tramp)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Mick Rhodes & the Hard Eight

Mick Rhodes & The Hard Eight tow a fine line. On the one hand, there's something unerringly familiar about their sound, what with its '80s sheen and overt accessibility. On the other hand, they're adept at jumping genres, veering from vintage pop one minute to hard core country the next. Fortunately, the narrow thread that ties it all together is never broken; the styles may vary, but the continuity is always assured. Consequently, the music remains radio-ready throughout, and the listener is pulled along in the process.

That variance assures no shortage of comparisons. Tom Petty, Buddy Holly, Paul Westerberg and Crazy Horse all find a place at the table, although no one influence is overt enough to peg fully and completely. It's more about piecing together parts of a puzzle and then guessing what will emerge from there. Therefore, no single estimation will suffice; from the pounding big beat of "Married Girls," the sheer exuberance of "Heavy Metal Heyday" and the snappy rhythm of "Last Summer" to the weeping pedal steel of "Don't Remind Me" and the full-on power ballad "That Kind of Love," Rhodes and company have all their bases covered and then some. If variation denotes ambitions, these guys - specifically, Wyman Reese (keys and guitar), John Sleeger (bass and vocals), Brian Wells (drums and percussion), Steve Sturgis (acoustic guitar, mandolin and vocals), and, natch, Rhodes himself (electric and acoustic guitars and lead vocals) - certainly show their mettle here.

Those who tend to be far more finicky may bemoan the fact that Rhodes and crew are retracing some well-trod ground. And indeed, that's clearly the case. But this, their sophomore set, not only shows their versatility, but also their ability to embrace a broad expanse of classic musical terrain. "Paradise City" may not be the nirvana it promises, but it's a worthy destination regardless. And damn if it's not a rocking revival at that...