Rivers Garcia, the Toronto based singer/songwriter’s debut album entitled Santa Cruz, is an all-out acoustic but not altogether unplugged album with some fantastic songs on it worth hearing, so it is a good thing he recorded and released it. Garcia did not expect to be releasing any of his music but got inspired by his trip through America and came out with this album that takes hearing all at once to really appreciate it. Most of the songs take some explaining about their meaning as the story is told and it is a ride that is worth taking as well.
As Garcia gets into his car, the album begins to spin with “Drive” being the only way to start as he starts the car engine and finds his song. I decided within seconds to keep listening, and I’m glad I did, because “Mustang Blues” is an awesome Americana song with a magnificent blues touch that wouldn’t sound wrong on the radio. There’s also something very classic about Garcia, he’s an old soul for sure. I really like this song, it’s over the top good. “Bella Surfista” is another good one too, it’s pretty much non-stop as the ride keeps going.
“Stick Shift” keeps with the flow of the subject matter, but “Blues And Sympathy” is more off the beaten path of this journey, which a few songs travel to just for spice and it’s one of them. But it’s all so good and tasty it doesn’t matter what song it is and it plays on shuffle just as well as in succession. “Palm Tress, West LA.” comes after that and it’s a long distance love affair piece containing some lovely acoustic playing and a soft but humorous vocal. And it’s all great stuff put together by a talented songwriter and producer.
“Clean” gets my vote for the most interesting and the most enjoyable track in one fell swoop. This is where you’re either grooving or it’s over and you might as well stop the trip and get off. Garcia comes off like the true songwriter he can be and if you don’t get this far you could miss that. It’s all in the words, and it keeps banging away with the title track, “Santa Cruz” making its appearance with some brilliant guitar work by Garica, in fact it’s all by Garcia, every written and recorded part is all him.
“Got It All Wrong” is another sweet little gem and you start to feel like this is a great Americana album without falling too far on either side of country or folk music in the process by staying closer to rock. The Leonon/McCartney roots of Rivers Garcia are strongly felt on this choice number. But it’s getting close to the end so “Jet Place” starts to speed things up nicely before it comes to a head. “Ideology” and “California” are both on par numbers to make what comes out a smashing album. If you like Americana but with less strings and more rocking aspects, this is one of 2020’s best.
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