To paraphrase Mario Balotelli, “Why is it always me?”
Why am I the one who gets handed albums which I find unfeasibly difficult to review given my wholesale ignorance of the genre in question? Or is our Albums Editor a genius, placing writers out of their comfort zones in order to elicit objectivity and a fresh perspective rather than merely pandering to an artist? (Note: our Albums Editor is not a genius).
Simply entitled Work, this is the 13th release by Ron Pope in a decade which indicates one of two things. Either, he has an awful lot to say for himself or there is very little quality control going on within his circle of associates. I have been quick to champion the cause of folk/country musicians on account of the fact the world is already choc full of ’em and rarely, if ever, do they speak to me. I grew up in the countryside and if someone penned a concept album around the health benefits of fresh root vegetables then I might be willing to take a punt but 60 seconds into Work and I already know we’re not going to stray into new territory. So, instead of a paint-by-numbers assessment, here is my open letter to Mr Ron Pope Esq.
You don’t know me and I don’t know you, well actually I kinda do know you as I’ve listened to all ten tracks on Work and you don’t appear to be very happy do you? Christ knows why, you have clearly tapped into that Country/Americana genre perfectly, and with over a billion Spotify and YouTube streams I reckon you may have a bob or two secreted away under the mattress by now.
So why don’t you try something radical and shake the whole genre up? Sure we all enjoy a bar room hoedown once in a while and ‘Bad For Your Health’ is a great wakener for young farmers the world over although ‘Let’s Get Stoned’ is a little route one don’t you think? Personally, if that’s all you have to say to the world then perhaps you should be stoned…and I’m not talking about the herbal sense.
Seriously Ron, you spend over four minutes lamenting “Someday we’re all gonna die/God willing, today ain’t the day” and I wonder how long you stroked that fabulously bushy beard of yours for before settling on that morbid pronouncement. Take your title track as a further example, “I wanted to work to live/ no not just live to work” and by now I am praying for you to spend a drunken night out with Sleaford Mods in the benign hope they may change your rather redundant vocabulary forever. I appreciate people love you, but then the North Koreans probably idolize Kim Jong-un, so why not push back the boundaries of your chosen genre, be daring, challenge convention and write the occasional ditty about root vegetables and the social impact of the Colorado beetle.
One website, whilst reviewing the album, posed the question “Is Work perfect?” to which the response from me is “Have you been mistakenly using Pritt Stick rather than Vicks Sinex cos if this is your idea of perfection then the world must be a very simple place for you”.
So thank you Mr Pope, thank you for taking the trouble to wheel out yet another piece of Americana which says nothing to anyone who wasn’t born within a stones-throw of a pedal steel guitar. People will claim to connect with you, that you offer a vision of a world they will never inhabit or to find an excuse to delve back into their Kenny Rogers collection. That’s fine, it’s their prerogative, just as mine is to shine a searchlight on those who are doing little to advance the cause of popular music. I admire your independence, your work ethic and your beard but I am no longer prepared to act as an apologist for those who could try harder and achieve more.
Work is out now on Brooklyn Basement Records