A Review of the CDs
"Changing Of The Guard" & "Homeground"
by T.R. Ritchie


"Changing Of The Guard" & "Homeground"
by T.R. Ritchie

Copyright 1990 (Changing Of The Guard)
copyright 1995 (Homeground)
Apex Records
P.O. Box 479
Moab, UT 84532
ph: (435)-259-6230
mailto:TRRinUTAH@aol.com

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 11/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
http://www.kevindmccarthy.com/music/index.html
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Like Sandburg's fog coming in on little cat feet, T.R. Ritchie offers a number of quiet, savvy gems on these two releases that gently work their way into the heart and mind. Unlike the fog that dissipates, Ritchie's introspective but direct lyrics and musical offerings linger as pleasant and evocative musings.

Neither earthshaking nor jarring in revelation, his scenarios on love and life, and relationships blooming, failing and resurrecting, are insightful and easily accessible. Utilizing his knack for turning phrases, he delivers crisp and clean vignettes that work well in their simplicity.

1990s "Changing Of The Guard" starts and ends with the weakest tunes (Heart Has A Will and Stone Born To Roll) but the selections between these two bookends showcase solid musicianship.

"Changing Of The Guard" details a relationship that has soured and ended. The lesson learned and bittersweet acknowledgement from the woman involved is thus:

Amen.

The best cut on the release, "Whitebark," is an uplifting depiction of all things strong in spirit flourishing in less-than-ideal conditions. Calling upon his time spent as a fire lookout up in the mountains in the Northwest, Ritchie noticed how certain trees were able to eke out a life despite limited natural resources and especially poor weather conditions. He also brings into the song his experience as a friend to a handicapped individual, broken in body but radiating elan.

Ritchie opens with:

In just twenty-two lines, Ritchie composes an exceptionally moving tale of sublety and wisdom.

"Meet You Halfway," provides spectacular imagery, backed by the elegance of Nancy Rumbel's English horn. Ritchie writes:

He continues: The sweetness of this tune could easily have swept into saccharine banality---Ritchie doesn't allow it to do so.

"Corner of My Heart" features Ritchie and Karin Blaine in a special duet. There are three stanzas to the song---they each sing different lyrics, with Ritchie singing the first while Blaine sings the second and so on. This collaboration works well and adds forcefulness to the delivery of the composition.

The premise of "Nothing To Regret" is that of a broken romantic relationship now existing in friendship form. Though painful at times, what the couple went through was necessary in order to get to the relationship they enjoy today. Still, early on, Ritchie ponders:

Ritchie ends with: "Homeground," recorded five years later in 1995, offers five standout songs in the mix of 14 selections. The title cut, "Homeground," is a delicate exposition about returning to the boyhood home for a family visit and the feelings surrounding such an event. No matter the distance between our childhood roots and our present physical location, there's always a lifeline, as Ritchie sings in the tune, that connects us to where we were raised.

Set in blues form and ably backed by Ritchie himself on the harmonica, "Decomposing The Blues," is a humorous depiction (believe it or not) on the benefits of suddenly dying. The character in the song, having passed on but still maintaining a level of awareness, now is unfettered and has no more problems to worry and fret about. In fact, he's just going to lay there, decomposing the blues, until his body is discovered. You'll enjoy this one!

"Barefoot Waltz" is a quirky but sweet take on a couple of social misfits enjoying themselves and their relationship. Utilizing Dennis Dougherty's mandolin and Dave Rimelis' fiddle backing, Ritchie paints wonderfully expressive pictures with his lyrics in this tune, enabling the listener to actually "see" the characters promenade throughout the unfolding of this song.

Born out of a friend's death in a car accident, "Hole In The World" is a wistful piece on how we sometimes squander the opportunity to do the things we keep putting off---such as calling or visiting the family and friends we haven't seen or talked to for quite a while. Ritchie, taken aback upon hearing about the loss of his friend, knows it is the same physical world out there (the mountain has not moved, he sings) but something now is missing. Stripped down to just acoustic guitar and percussion, Ritchie captures just the right rhythm and setting to enhance this song's effectiveness.

In "Somewhere To Begin," when pressed about how he can sing and perform music while surrounded by such tragedy and pain in the world, he acknowledges that dramatic changes do need to take place but that "at least for a fool such as he, a song is somewhere to begin". Offering his defense smoothly but with a mixture of righteousness and defiance, he takes the stand that we all should do what we can to make the world a better place and that his artistry is his means of conveying his efforts for betterment.

"Can You See The Moon," a sweet countryish-sounding tune and "Farmer," backed by fiddle, mandolin and vocal harmonies, are other offerings worth noting.

Definitely not overproduced, these two CDs contain spare but fitting musical accompaniment. Ritchie's voice, while not a strong one, works for his music and singing style. "Changing Of The Guard" offers a good mix of amiable tunes while "Homeground" contains the more memorable selections. Ritchie gives us little windows from which to see into his world. Take a look.

Track List:

Changing Of The Guard: Homeground: All songs written by T.R. Ritchie.


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