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article imageReview: Billy Roberts' vocals struggle on 'Last of the Originals'

By Andrew Ellis     Nov 30, 2014 in Music
On "The Last of the Originals," Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders make their own brand of country music. But while the songs are catchy -- and the musicians are clearly talented -- the vocals fail to to deliver on an unfortunately consistent basis.
It starts on "Mrs. Jones" which starting out sounds like something Cross Canadian Ragweed would play due to its grunge-like influence. But the vocals -- especially the verses -- don't showcase a lot of feeling. Roberts may be singing it, but it doesn't sound as if it's coming from his soul.
"My Baby Gone Cold" has a very nice bluesy introduction thanks to stellar guitar and keyboard playing. It gives hope to the kind of it's going to be until the vocals come in once again. Roberts is singing, but you don't get the sense that what he's singing about actually happened to him. There's a certain feeling of detachment between the lyrics and his voice that hinders the songs ability to connect with people.
A slight improvement comes on "No More Mr. Nice Guy" where the vocals seem to fit in pretty well. Roberts does a good job of adding just the right bit of emotion to the song making it one of the album's strongest cuts.
The strongest point on the album comes on "When I Was Young." It's the most broken-down song of the set, and his singing style blends in just right with everything else. So far his range has proven to be limited, but this song about his home seems to fit him just right.
Roberts tries his hand at singing a narrative on "Davey Crocket and the Alamo." Something like this would be better fit for a voice with a Springsteen-like commanding voice. Unfortunately, Roberts doesn't possess that kind of tone yet. It's something best saved for further down the road of his career.
The album closes on "Red Head Baby," which has a raw feel to it and does compliment Roberts' voice a little better. The vocals would again have benefited with a little more feeling behind them, but it's still listenable.
While there are a few moments where the vocals fit in really well, there is also a lot of room for improvement. In country music it's all about the song, and the song relies heavily on the vocal. If the vocal can't pull the listener in, then they're going to turn the radio dial until they do feel something.
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