All text and images ©2016 David Hill Photography
Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
Released June 30, 2017
Reviewed July 4, 2017
Native Heart, the eighth studio release from Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers hit the shelves at the end of June, with the lead song "Flowerin'" available earlier to those who pre-ordered the album.
From the opening guitar scratching and whistling on "Flowerin'", there is something immediately familiar. It becomes more so as Roger's voice joins in with witty, yet approachable lyrics like "I ain’t worried ‘bout what Jesus may be thinkin’ of my soul.
I’m barefoot on a silver string. My faith is rock ‘n roll." When the horns join in, the catchiness and positive message of the tune increases ten-fold. "Flowerin'" is an excellent choice to kick off the album, and draw the listener in.
The familiarity that I mentioned does not breed contempt. Quite the contrary, it is refreshing to see a band evolve, but not leave their roots behind. Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers have never been about pretenses, they play songs that mean something to them, and in turn, their fans.
"Sunday Drivin'" is the perfect road song for about an hour into the trip, when you need to relax, and take it all in, and be thankful for the person in the seat beside you. Jim Dalton's lead guitar at the end conjures the image of miles of telephone lines stretching into the distance, towards an unknown and unseen destination.
A nod to the record's title shows up in "Arizona Night", which is probably the strongest song on the album. You can feel the love for the state, not only in the words, but with the energy and passion that Roger sings them, P.H. Naffah's power in his drumming, and driving bass from Nick Scropos. A memorable chorus that will have crowds at live shows singing along enthusiastically. "Arizona Night" is followed immediately by another strong song, "Barons to Break", and if they play these songs back to back at a show, the audience might just be left without a voice.
In the nearly 20 years since the band formed, they have experimented with adding many different layers to their basic sound. This record draws on much of that. "Flowerin'" could have been on No More Beautiful World, and throughout the album you can hear songs reminiscent of other releases. Native Heart draws on the sounds of Turbo Ocho, and also The Independent with stripped down arrangements and turns of phrases. Continuing the trend of familiarity is "¡Viva Love!", but instead of stripped down, it brings back the sound found on Unida Cantina. Not only does it resemble "Marie", you can picture it being a sequel to the earlier song, with the rider having risen from certain death to return to his Marie, triumphant in the power of love.
After a couple more uptempo songs, "Hello Tiger", and "Fun", the record winds down with the touching ballad "So May You" and Roger stretches out and lets his voice shine.
For fans of RCPM, Native Heart will be a sure thing, expanding on themes and sounds they already love. New listeners may find themselves immediately searching the band's back catalogue and joining the Peacemaker following.
Native Heart, the newest release from Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers
Nick Scropos, P.H. Naffah, Roger Clyne, and Jim Dalton of Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers performing at World Café Live in Philadelphia, 2016