Artist: Greg Roth
Produced by: Rio Rancho Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Warning: You must read this review in it’s entirety as it is actually two reviews in one. To read only the first part of the review would be to commit a huge disservice to yourself as you will never truly get the reviewer’s true feelings about this album.
When I received Caught Looking from Washington, D.C. singer / songwriter Greg Roth, I was excited. I love to hear music from local acts produced by indie-label producers. Often times, you can find some great artists via indie-labels. Roth’s bio describes his sound as being somewhere between Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Wilco, Crowded House and a few others. He cites Bob Dylan as one of his lyrical inspirations. Sounds like an interesting combination, right?
So, I popped the CD into the player and from minute one, I was wondering what I had done to deserve this. The first song is called I’ve Only Got A Minute and consists of Greg Roth’s fast-paced ramblings amid a guitar background. Throughout the song, which is actually only a minute long, the singer insists that he only has a minute and that whatever you have to say to him better be fast. How’s this for fast – you’re voice is flat! When I think Bob Dylan, I think poetry…story-telling lyrics. When I listen to Greg Roth I say, huh? He mumbles throughout most of his songs and I really can’t understand what he is saying on most of them. The music is terrific, but from what I had heard, its Greg Roth’s lyrics that stand out. Well, how can the lyrics stand out if I can only understand every other line of each song?!
So, I decided to give Caught Looking a second chance. Every once in a while, I’ll find an album that I didn’t like the first time around, but enjoyed upon the second listen. Greg Roth’s bio describes his sound as being like Elvis Costello and I would have to agree that he does sound quite a bit like him. Unfortunately, I’m not much of an Elvis Costello fan. Re-listening to the song I’ve Only Got A Minute presented some redeeming qualities to me. I still say that Greg Roth sounds flat, but listening intently to the song – in other words, sitting glued to the speakers of my sound system so I can try to catch every word – I found it to be a bit funny. In fact, I would love to use this track on my answering machine for those callers who love to leave rambling messages. I could actually imagine picking up the phone, a telemarketer on the other end asking me if she could take two minutes of my time to ask me some questions or tell me about some product, and I throw this song on and then hang up after the minute is up. Would be great fun!
I still say that Greg Roth is extremely talented music-wise, especially after reading the CD’s liner notes and discovering that most of the instruments were played by him – percussion, guitars, piano – you name it, the guy has mastered it. And the back-up singers – members of local bands – were spot on, in harmony with the music and each other. Each song on Caught Looking has a different style to it, an attempt by Roth to show his range as an artist. And yet, Roth’s voice often just doesn’t quite make it, especially on softer or higher notes.
There were a couple of other songs I really enjoyed. Healthy Wealthy Wise is a catchy tune that I actually found myself singing along with. And if you thought I’ve Only Got A Minute was funny, you have to listen to League Bowlers, a hysterical song about, yup, you guessed it, those folks that play on the bowling league. I cracked up at the one segment of the song in which Roth discusses the reason why one of the members’ wives married him: “is she drugged or is she boozin’.” You just have to hear the rest of the song – the banjo playing, the redneck sing-song – just too funny.
Would I pay to buy Caught Looking by Greg Roth? Good question. The answer is two-sided. While Greg Roth is indeed an excellent musician, and I agree with his fans about his lyrics based on certain songs, I would have to say that I wouldn’t by this CD unless someone else was singing. Roth’s voice just isn’t strong enough to carry these tunes and often times, it seems like he’s mumbling, causing the listener to ask, “What did he just say?” too many times for them to be able to enjoy the song. But don’t take my word for it. Check out Greg Roth’s music for yourself at www.myspace.com/gregroth.