Cross My Heart + Hope To Die
Shut Up & Play!, 2013
REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/29/2013
It takes nerve to cover a song as iconic as Bob Seger’s road-warrior anthem “Turn The Page,” a song whose somber, intense cadence and melody and lyric are imprinted on the brain of any classic rock fan of a certain age. It takes even more nerve to reimagine the song as a mid-tempo country-rock rambler. But what takes the most nerve of all, is to make said cover the lead-off track on your album of otherwise original tunes.
The latter is exactly the choice D.B. Rielly made here, basically gambling his entire sophomore album on the confidence he placed in his rootsy reinterpretation of this classic tune. The good news is: he chose well. The cover works; it’s a terrific, compelling rendition of the song. And the gimmick works; it made me want to hear more, made me curious about what kind of songs a guy with this particular combination of talent and guts would write and sing for himself.
The answer, found both here and on his acclaimed debut Love Potions And Snake Oil, is songs not altogether unlike “Turn The Page”: introspective, literate and edgy at times, but with a playful confidence fueling them. Rootsy to its core, this confidently crafted music draws together strands from country, folk, blues, rockabilly and zydeco into a seamless weave of definitively American music.
That confidence reasserts itself immediately as we transition into the much lighter “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” featuring twangy electric guitar and accordion in service of an archly funny lyric illustrating the old maxim “happy wife, happy life.” As Rielly puts it, “I’ve got it bad and I swear you ain’t seen nothin’ yet / I’d even go shoppin’ for shoes with you at the mall / I‘d drive your mom to bingo, and take your cat to the vet / Lovin’ every minute of it all.” It’s finger-snapping fun, delivered with a broad wink.
Next up, “Some Day” could be described as a lovely dirge, the sort of steady-strummed barroom weeper every country-rocker worth his salt takes a swing at; here, Rielly connects. “Hell Or High Water” follows, an earnest, sturdy, entirely acoustic tune about persevering through adversity in a relationship. That philosophical bent continues with “Moving Mountains,” adding a gospel-flavored Hammond organ and returning the steady-on rhythm section of Bruce Gordon (bass) and Robin Khemani (drums) to the mix. “Movin’ mountains, one shovelful at a time,” goes the chorus to this dusty, loping spiritual.
Guitarist Hiromasa Suzuki features on electric slide on the playful barroom blues-boogie “It’s Gonna Be Me,” with this snappy chorus: “I think I hear somebody knockin’ / I think it’s opportunity / I think somebody’s lucky number just came up / And this time, it’s gonna be me.” Then “Untie Me” jacks the tempo another notch, delivering a big stuttering rhythm section, echoey roadhouse guitar chords, and an early ’60s rock vibe.
“Your Doggin’ Fool” is a clever, atmospheric kiss-off tune with Rielly covering all instruments himself, including banjo and shakers. Penultimate tune “Roadrunner” is a kick, a zydeco-flavored tale of romantic pursuit spiced with accordion, banjo, handclaps and Rielly’s winking drawl. Closer “Fiorchroi (True Heart)” bookends “Turn The Page” nicely with a sweet song of romantic devotion featuring a penny whistle overture that gives it a rather Celtic feel.The packaging is notable here, too: a hand-crafted, wood-veneered box that seems intended to evoke a wood coffin from the Old West. It’s a nice touch that accentuates the dusty, timeless atmosphere of this album. Cross My Heart + Hope to Die is a terrifically engaging piece of work offering rich, fully realized moments paying homage to generations of American music.