Troy Lindsey – Ride Across The Sun (2010)

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by Nick DeRiso

Upset over a world that wronged him one too many times, Troy Lindsey begins his bumpy Ride Across the Sun in a foul mood. Luckily, as is so often the case, a good woman can make all the difference.

Lindsey, a Marine helicopter mechanic in the Gulf War with a voice like a knot in a hickory stump, doesn’t like where things are headed. At the same time, his characters can find no comfort in nostalgia. Too many have clearly seen things they’d rather forget. He begins with “South Side of Hell,” a tune shrouded in echoing melancholy. Lindsey harshly criticizes a culture that’s more about talking than it is about doing. This tune’s rough-hewn craggle, in both his singing and his guitar playing, recalls the Muscle Shoals-era Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Lindsey brings an angry quiver reminiscent of Neil Young to both “Yesterday” and “Think About This,” which take a hard-eyed look back at the country’s recent troubles, both economic and moral. “Change don’t come until you try,” Lindsey thunders in “Think About This,” “and nobody’s trying anymore.” The song’s gently insistent Bob Dylan-esque acoustic intro then gives way to a pair of scorching electric guitar solos. Played in tandem, they underscore the internal argument between promise and harsh, hard reality. Yet the profoundly interesting guitar playing on Ride Across the Sun is often obscured by Lindsey’s sour mash-soaked baritone, so deep that Waylon Jennings would be envious. Lindsey goes even further down on “The Wolves,” sounding more than a little like Tom Waits.

“Warlords,” the closer on Ride Across the Sun, boasts an outdoorsy, growling burr. His is the voice of every man, beaten but unbowed. Even when Lindsey tries to lighten up, there is simply too much darkness. He adds island-influenced rhythms to “Just Another Day,” but they do nothing to brighten that song’s troubling ruminations, either. The title track begins with some introspective picking, before opening up into a similarly determined tale of stick-to-it-iveness in the face of a mean old world.

Then something happens: Kristen McCamey arrives to provide an ethereal backing vocal, like an angel lighting on Lindsey’s shoulder. Their duet performance of “Tell It Like It Is” is a high point, both emotionally and musically. McCamey’s voice surrounds Lindsey like a new glove over a cracked and calloused hand. She’s the sweet to his sour, the textured hopefulness that works in perfect contrast. That doesn’t mean there are any easy answers for Lindsey, or for any of us. “Every man has his doubts,” he laments on “Warlords.” “Tell me, what is it all about?”

Sometimes, as Ride Across the Sun so clearly illustrates, a sense of community has to be enough. All we have is one another. “When loneliness prevails and your inspiration fails,” McCamey sings on “Tell It Like It Is,” “you reach for that place, and leave everything behind.” Later, they sing a pleading refrain of “will it be any different next time,” over and over in painful unison, and there is some sense finally that it just might be.

“Lonely Town,” again featuring McCamey, makes good on that promise, cracking the door on a fledgling lyrical optimism that’s echoed in the song’s lilting Western swing. “Ninth Life” takes flight during a pleasant piano interlude, even as Lindsey again sets about asking the tough questions. Only this time, a resolutely upbeat McCamey is there, sounding like a scuffed-up Karen Carpenter: “There’s gotta be a reason.”

Maybe, maybe not. But here’s hoping these two keep working together to try to find out.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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