Rivers Garcia is a unique Canadian artist, a virtuoso that plays all his own written music on every instrument across Santa Cruz, his debut album release. With a strong Americana approach, Garcia nails what it’s like to travel down south and head west to California in particular, and back to his home by Toronto where the album was recorded and produced. The whole album’s feel is one that Garcia describes as “lo-fi” with some serious material to work with in order to call it that which is really just very acoustic driven to put it more delicately because the sound is completely appropriate for the content.
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“Drive” immediately kicks the engine on and the transmission into high gear as the radio dial searches for the right song, which is the song you’re listening to as it takes over. You even hear a few bits and pieces of the album’s tracks before it finally kicks in and comes on as one of the harder driving songs. It’s clearly about getting away, which he goes onto do as the song titles unfold in a narrative manner as if to be adventurously traveling a long way from home. The harmonica is reminiscent of 70s Neil Young, 60s Canned Heat and others.
Garcia is poignant wryly humorous in his vocal delivery, so you know the ride is going to be easy going and it continues-on with the even stronger “Mustang Blues” with its dreamy mystical guitar playing. You even start to hear musically where his mind is while forming his own style of music which is somewhere between straight forward rock and Americana. That is to indicate that there’s some country and folk to this music but it’s also influenced by some glam rock artist and to me that’s a cool combo and what makes Garcia’s blend special.
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Moving forward there’s a lot to enjoy with “Clean” being one to mark early, because while it might not be the album’s magnum opus, it comes as close any as any. “Santa Cruz” is the title track and it’s another one of the great sleeper tracks that creep up on you. It’s all very accessible and comprehensive to process music done with a humble but exceedingly passionate vibe. “Ideology” is one of those tracks where that is proven, as well as the grand finale “California” which is obviously the trip destination as Garcia obliges listeners along for the glorious ride.