Scorched Earth (2006)

With his 4th cd of Modern Hillbilly music, Rand Reynolds continues his journey to connect the heart to the head. This guitarist’s lightning maturity and sophistication as a songwriter strengthens with Scorched Earth as his baritone delivery introduces new emotional elements that are convincing and contagious. His signature sound is patently potent -- acoustic guitars rumble about in ominously barren musical arrangements that, on the surface, are simplistic in origin, but with an underlying level of complexity masked by the songs’ straightforward melodies. Reynolds’ style is not a manufactured sound, to be sure; his harsh sparse tone is readily recognizable and as close to the listener as this man’s own DNA. He records as if he’s playing to a crowd of one in a perpetual wringing out of a dusty tired heart. At times, this material is unsettling, even horrific perhaps, but ultimately uplifting and cleansing despite a dirge-like morose undercurrent. This is a formidable weighty collection of 18 songs, a portfolio almost, of edgy well-conceived works. Reynolds' lyrics are meditative -- not in a fashionable New Age sense -- but rather, short stories about how human beings assemble their own personality puzzles. For listeners, it's a voyeuristic spiritual romance from a provoking artist who's just begun to share the songs he thought he could never sing. Scorched Earth is not country, exactly, not folk, not rock, but all these things, and promises to be a prelude to Reynolds' own defining moment in Americana music.