Built to Break
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
On first hearing, Texas based singer/songwriter Ronnie Fauss is little more than a compilation of his influences. A few dollops of Steve Earle country rocking here, a dash of Highway 61 era Bob Dylan playfulness there with a touch of Tom Petty garage Americana, some energized Georgia Satellite red clay guitar twang and enough John Hiatt styled turns of phrases to keep it all interesting. Vocally his everyman voice, similar at times to Jackson Browne, is standard issue and nothing you would consider particularly distinctive.
But despite the sense that you have heard this before, the sheer craft and dedication Fauss and his dynamic band display on his sophomore release makes this an alt-country album you’ll return to often. Whether rollicking it up on “Eighteen Wheels” with the Old 97’s Rhett Miller –another influence—or going rustic folk/bluegrass on the bittersweet acoustic ballad “Never Gonna Last” featuring a dynamic duet with the Dolly Parton-styled vocals of “Jenna Paulette, these tunes beckon you back for another round. Fauss’ talents shine when he hits on a chugging groove and contrasts it with melancholy lyrics about a woman whose once vibrant lifestyle has left her lonely on Christmas in “I’m Sorry Baby (That’s Just the Way it Goes)”. Cash’s “Ring of Fire” is referenced on Phosphorescent cover “Song for Zula,” another downbeat lyric about how love frequently fades as relationships mature.
Even though the majority of these songs concern the luster that often dims in romantic interactions and life, Fauss writes strong supple melodies and has a savvy sense of dynamics. This mix of country, folk and rock may not be new, but he balances the two with a pro’s experience and the attack of an artist with something to prove. Rockers mix with ballads, enriching the overall flow and any disc with as many strong tracks as this is worthy of your 40 minutes.
While Fauss hasn’t transcended his sources, there is plenty of evidence on these eleven sturdy songs to show he has the raw talent to make that happen soon.