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Senators and the Rebel Son
Artist: Chris Bono
Label: P Squared
Sometimes you can get a handle on what artists a songwriter has in his collection by the tone of his songs. At other times, it turns out your speculation is unfounded, and that the artist is simply playing to his own musical strengths. Chris Bono (no relation to Sonny or U2's lead singer) seems to be a child of '70's guitar rock, southern rock, and bombastic rock a la Bryan Adams or Meatloaf.
This album has a strange familiarity to it, in that it often seems like you've heard the song before, but perhaps with a different guitar tuning. Bono's vocals have an edge to them, a grittiness combined with a soulful, bluesy sound. Bandmate and co-producer Zoux is the Phil Madeira of the group, adding Hammond B-3 and Wurlitzer to several of the pieces.
"Killer #17" is southern blues rock somewhere between Kid Rock and Black Crowes. "Rapunzel" employs a Seven Mary Three vocal style, while "Hey You", a tune about the fear of making the first move, veers into Counting Crows territory. "Searching for the Sun" stays in the same vein – the only thing missing from this song is a mandolin. "Carry On" and "Oh Sister" are songs that encourage persistence when life gets rough.
"Cincinnati" and "Matter of Time" are two of the more notable tracks musically. Two of the song contain profanity – "Ready to Burn" is about taking a road trip with a friend, while "Karma's Such a B---- is pretty self-explanatory. There is a hidden track as well, which combines a political rant reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine followed by another song.
Bono fills a niche much like Will Hoge and Chris Whitley, in that he makes straight ahead rock music that pulls no punches, refuses to rely on studio tricks, and is easy to sing along with after the second or third play. Ten Senators and the Rebel Son is enjoyable on many levels, and is easily one of the better indie projects I've heard this year.
Brian A. Smith