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Christian Lopez Band

Onward – 2015 (Blaster)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Christian Lopez Band

The full-length debut of the Martinsburg, West Va.-based Christian Lopez Band is a pleasant mix of country, bluegrass, folk and pop. At 19, singer/songwriter Lopez displays a maturity not only in the quality of his songwriting but in his choice of the lone cover as well as he transforms the traditional "Oh Those Tombs" (recorded by Hank Williams and the Stanley Brothers as "Lonely Tombs") into a bluesy country-rocker.

The bluegrass roots are evident on several tracks including the introspective "Morning Rise" ("I've been writing and I've been fighting/The demons that I came here to get out"), and the is simultaneously haunting ("Silence is creeping for me now") and hopeful ("Save your tearing, I'm beauty bound") ballad "Stay With You." The moody "Seven Years" tells of a difficult union ("Every day, you cast me away but you still want to hold my hand/Every night and it feels alright, but I still don't understand") and features nice harmonies from Chelsea McBee.

The influence of The Avett Brothers is strong on "Pick Me Up" and "Leaving It Out" with piano driven arrangements reminiscent of "Ill With Want" and "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise." Similarly the use of strings on the closing acoustic ballad "Goodbye" recalls the Avett's "February Seven."

Two of the stronger tracks are reprised from the 2014 EP "Pilot" with the bouncy country/pop of "Will I See You Again" and the folksy ballad "The Man I Was Before," which features Lopez on a Dylanesque harmonica solo.

In addition to McBee (banjo), the musicianship is stellar throughout particularly with Ben Kitterman (Dobro), Mike Webb (keyboards), Eamon McLoughlin (strings) and guitars by Lopez and producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson). With Lopez' smooth vocals and strong compositions this is an impressive debut from a promising young singer/songwriter.