Thursday, August 08, 2013


The Great American Robber Barons have just issued a subtle, quiet song cycle that features the majestic crystalline lead guitar of Keith Dion, impassioned powerhouse vocals from Diana Mangano and masterful songcraft. They are joined by drummer Prairie Prince and jazz pianist Ricardo Scales.

Reno Nevada... and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal is a stellar debut record.

Keith’s lyrics are poignant, political, and literate. His poetic social commentary covers the 99% (“At The Hands Of The Robber Barons”), the atrocities of war, gun control, animal rights (“Conquistador” and “You Don’t Know The Half Of It”), and women’s rights. He also explores the painful complexities of growing up as a child of a Vietnam veteran.

Keith: “Every song on the album is about gambling, vice and betrayal, and we really mean it.”

Underpinning this subject matter with incredibly deft playing from all involved, as a listener you get a sense of space in the notes that they purposely don't play. The arrangements perfectly frame Diana and Keith's vocals, never overpowering them. Traces of the Byrds, Nick Cave, Lou Reed and Judy Collins are detected in the mix, though these elements are merely a reference point for those who want to get a preview of what the album has on offer. Highlights include "I Know You Just Don't Want Me Anymore" with Mangano turning in a dynamite vocal and their cover of Richard Farina's "Reno, Nevada" which has a dark, smoky vibe that lingers in your brain. The delicate, delayed guitar figures are the icing on the cake. Much to be commended here, though you would be advised to take in the entire disc to fully appreciate what Keith has to say. There are great rewards in store for those who take the time to seek this one out. Overall, it's an extremely satisfying listen.

Get your hands on Reno Nevada... and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal right here

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