New American rock was a musical label worth carrying in the late eighties. Being a part of that scene meant that you belong to the most innovative group of musicians on the scene, and that you possess a direct link to more traditional rock roots. One of the bands that proudly carried the “new American rock” label back in the day was The Sidewinders from Tucson, AZ.
As it happened at the time, new American rock bands had excellent songs, even better live shows, but often somewhat thin albums. The groups that belonged to the genre were deeply aware of their quality and cared enough to make records accessible to the eighties market. As a result, those records often suffered from somewhat weak production. So, when Rich formed a new band Luminarius in the nineties, his music started having an edgier and a more appropriate production on the long plays.
Rich Hopkins and Luminarios is not the most obvious example to choose from when it comes to new American rock today, but they are one of the most consistent. Rich’s albums contain reliably great songwriting and sparking guitars, whichever you decide to pick.
Nineties was a great opportunity to ride on the alternative country wave, which definitely had its roots in the new American rock, but for some reason, there was not much interest in Rich’s native USA for the Luminarios. Yet, he struck a solid following in Europe, especially in Germany and Spain.
For his new album, Hopkins returns to Tucson. The record is a lengthy one, it goes on for an hour, but it will keep your attention. In fact, in a line of Hopkins’ consistent albums, this one stands as a crown achievement, without a filler, without a downer. Almost every song contains a catchy riff and climax is always reserved for Rich’s crunchy solo.
The central place in the album is reserved for Friend of The Shooter, an epic, disturbing story about a mind gone mad. It’s about someone Rich knew and who turned out be a mass murderer. Although Neil Young appears now and then as the strongest influence for Hopkins, on Friend of The Shooter, this is the most apparent.
Another interesting thing about this album is that is also contains an extra disc that goes for almost another hour, which contains various ambient and folky improvisations on two guitars, acoustic or electric which is the biggest sonic departure for Hopkins on any of his records. Although, I am usually not a fan of such lengthy experiments, Hopkins did a fantastic job bringing in the trippy desert sounds of Arizona and Mexico on a record. The second cd finishes on a very optimistic note, with an disarmingly beautiful and playful Ragged Hearts. The long but exciting record finally ends with a rooster- doodle-doo, bringing a definite smile on the listener’s face.
First published on rockxs.com.