Review: Brandon Rhyder "Head Above Water"

Brandon Rhyder has been known for solid Red Dirt standards that stand the test of time. Now, the Austin, Texas country singer is ready to spread his wings and see if Texas country fans are willing to accept a bold concept album. Yes, Rhyder has made a major career departure with "Head Above Water." But the proof is in the pudding, and it still tastes darn good.
The album begins with a bold, radio-ready anthem "Rock Angel." However,  the album comes into its own with the hummable "You Can Count On Me." Rhyder channels his inner Rob Thomas to create a track that audiences from all genres will find irresistible.

"You Burn Me" is a Roy Orbison-style song that offers a pulsating beat and notably intense lyrics. However, the best song on the album is "Like It Was The Last Time." The song builds to a rousing crescendo with a cool Darius Rucker vibe. "Like It Was The Last Time" could be a mainstream country chart hit for Brandon Rhyder and deserves a wide audience. Moreover, the ballad "Battery" is another potential country chart hit that highlights Rhyder's terrific songwriting skills.

"I'll Take You" plows more familiar Texas country ground, and is pleasing on all levels. However, the purest country track on the album is "It's The Country That Saves Me." It's a winner that concert audiences will lap up faster than Budweiser on a Saturday night. "Breathe" should also get crowds going.

The tender "Last Swan Song" is a contemporary country masterpiece. "Ultimate Deceiver" offers many of the same positive traits as the latter cut, and Brandon Rhyder's vocals have never sounded better. "You Like Me Again" also deserves special listener attention.

The title track "Head Above Water" is the album's biggest surprise. It is a multi-genre, ethereal musical treat that showcases Brandon Rhyder as a true artist worthy of attention from mainstream music press of all genres. In addition, the album's cover art (by Pixel Peach) is amazing, and it hints at the unique musical package waiting for listeners.

Finally, the album has a toe-tapping hidden track that will evoke strong opinions - both pro and con. It's titled "Queen Of My Roost," and it's quirky, inventive and fun. Rhyder deserves credit for pushing the envelope in his musical performance and songwriting.

Brandon Rhyder's "Head Above Water" is a thought provoking and melodic album that will make you rewrite all of your preconceived notions about Red Dirt music. With an album as interesting as this, Rhyder can rest assured that he's kept his musical career above water. But it may be a sign that he's floating around looking for a bigger pond. Or maybe he's just trying to make us wonder what he's going to do next. If so, it worked.

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