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Chris Ross and the North set to release new album: ‘Over Lonesome’

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“This ain’t your mama’s solo Chris Ross record,” Ross told me last week of “Over Lonesome,” the second album recorded by Chris Ross & the North.  The disc is set for release on June 2 and will coincide with an album release concert scheduled for that evening at Bar Harbor’s historic Criterion Theatre.  

Ross’s fourth disc overall, “Over Lonesome” is by far his most stylistically varied record to date.

“We’ve got some rockin’ songs (“Just My Luck,” “Love Gone Blind,” “Cigarette States”), we’ve got the slow, sad country songs (“Every October”), there’s some Motown-sounding stuff (“Once Upon a Time Kind”)– there’s some of everything on this album,” Ross says.

Not fond of musical stereotypes, Ross says it’s literally impossible to describe the new music with one tag. “I can tell you which genre a song is but not which genre an album or a band is,” he said.

In addition to Ross on vocals, lyrics and guitar, The North includes guitarist Zachary Bence, Caleb Sweet on bass and Ryan Curless on drums. The same quartet recorded 2015’s acclaimed “Young Once.” 

“This album was a group effort like I’d never done before,” Ross says. “All of the songwriting credits are split four ways.”

Every electric guitar heard on the album is played by multi-instrumentalist Bence. “Zack also plays everything with keys, including B3, piano, Rhodes and Wurlitzer,” Ross adds. “And he also wrote all of the horn charts which is quite a feat.”

The tone of “Over Lonesome” is set with the opening track “Dangerous Man,” an intense, slow-burning rocker that features one of Ross’s finest vocal performances to date. Bence’s wicked slide-guitar solo adds fire to this tale of a mythical renegade.

Truly a band effort, “Over Lonesome” was recorded in March with producer Jonathan Wyman at The Halo Studio in South Windham. 

“We all contributed ideas on how we wanted the songs to sound and we tried a bunch of different things,” Ross says of the album’s 11 new tracks. “For each new idea, we’d say ‘Let’s try it and see what it sounds like.’ If that wasn’t what we were looking for, we tried something else.”

The rich sound of the album would make it appear that it took many months of studio sessions to complete, but Ross says everything was wrapped up in a couple of weeks of 12-hour days.

“We were prepared when we went in but we still worked right up to the wire with most of this stuff,” Ross says. “I was writing lyrics right up until the 11th hour of the 11th day. It worked out great but it’s always a sprint to the finish.”

“Over Lonesome” introduces us to a new set of characters, a staple of some of Ross’s best songs.

For example, the dream-shattered woman Ross sings about in “Every October,” once “a hell of a dancer,” gathers balloons, a ribbon and string and ties a single white rose to an old oak tree near the curve of the Franklin town line, in memory of a lost love who sang the sweetest refrain. “It’s been thirty Octobers since they danced alone, like two clouds unaware of the rain,” Ross sings.

In his bandmates, Ross not only has world-class musicians, but fellow musical travelers, intent on seeing each song reach its full potential. There is not a superfluous note or element out of place on “Over Lonesome.”

The varied textures and tones provided by the band serve as essential ingredients for each song. This is the sound of a band who understands what it means to serve the song by playing only what it takes to make the music live and breathe. 

Guest backing vocalists Anna Lombard and Gina Alibrio add a soulful touch to select songs on the album, including Lombard covering the breakdown on the album’s third song, the scorching “Just My Luck,” destined to become a summer staple on WKIT 100.3, longtime supporters of Ross’s music.

Further cameos include Andrew Martelle of the Mallett Brothers Band, who adds fiddle to “One Day.” Russ Condon, of the band Town Meeting, sings harmony on “Same Town” while Dustin Meadows of The Meadows Brothers adds harmonica to “Second Chance Saloon.”

Ross likes to leave some ambiguity in his lyrics instead of applying specific meaning to each song. He prefers to allow listeners to apply their own interpretation.

“There are ‘I’m in love’ songs. There are ‘I’m out of love’ songs. There’s ‘I’m angry about whatever’ songs,” Ross says. “The title ‘Over Lonesome’ can be taken different ways. It could mean ‘I’m not lonesome anymore’. It might mean ‘I’m extra lonesome.’”

Chris Ross and the North will unveil the album during a CD-release show at the Criterion Theatre on Cottage St. in Bar Harbor on June 2. Tickets will be available at www.CriterionTheatre.org. “It’s a great room, it’s beautiful and we’re looking forward to being back there,” Ross told me. “We’re in the process of putting together our openers at the moment.”

In “Over Lonesome,” Chris Ross and the North have recorded their most rewarding collection of songs to date. 

“We went in so many varying directions on this record and we’re super-excited for people to hear it,” Ross says. “It isn’t exactly what people are expecting.” 

(Check out "Just My Luck" here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUqfkhOIcBE)

 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 03 May 2017 11:22

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