Robert Jon and the Wreck’s “Ride Into the Light”

Though it comes to us in a gentle strut, there’s a lot of urgency to the lyrical narrative in the title cut of Robert Jon and the Wreck’s Ride Into the Light, currently out everywhere good southern rock is sold and streamed. From the beginning, this feels like a radio-bound single from the record, and this is perhaps because the song is absolutely one of the more personality-focused compositions you’re going to hear in the tracklist of Ride Into the Light, but if you want to get a good handle on what this band is all about I’d recommend spinning the entire album uninterrupted.

Harmonies tell us a lot about the emotionality of the verses in “Come at Me,” “West Coast Eyes” and the swift “Don’t Look Down,” and had they not been given as big a part in the grander scheme of things, I don’t know that it would’ve been possible for us to appreciate just how melodic a sound Robert Jon and the Wreck have here. They’re very generous with the warmth of the string play in this record, and while that’s been the case with a lot of the southern rock I’ve been listening to lately, this is coming from a group straight out of obscurity.

There’s not a lick of pretentiousness to be found in this LP, and given the technicalities that earnestly push “Bring Me Back Home Again,” “One of a Kind,” and “Who Can You Love,” that’s something the Wreck should be proud of. The complexities of a conventional southern rock outing are all left intact here, but it would be criminal to suggest the freeing feel of modern country wasn’t influencing the stylization of the verses in songs like “Come at Me.” This band has a diverse sound, but being that they’re a fierce act out of southern California, I suppose I should have expected as much.

Robert Jon and the Wreck have some awesome chemistry in every track included in Ride Into the Light, but in the case of the album-opening “Pain No More,” I think it’s impossible to ignore just how well these players bring out the best in each other. There’s no competing for the spotlight in this performance; only feeding into each other with provocative grooves that take the rock n’ roll framework of the composition and refashion it for the wants and desires of the contemporary southern rock fanatic.

Ride Into the Light is a great album without dispute, and while it’s featuring a couple of rough edges here and there (the best of which add a lot to its substance, from where I sit), it has enough of a kick to compensate for any surface level shortcomings that I came across in preparation for this review. Robert Jon and the Wreck are in the scene at what could be the most competitive era for roots rock bands in general, but as long as they keep their noses to the grindstone in the years to come, I think this will be but one of many hits they rack up in what should be a very long and successful career.

Chadwick Easton

Music

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