Ronnie Fauss – Built to Break (ALBUM REVIEW)

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ronniefaussalbumFor Ronnie Fauss, a musical career came after he’d already racked up some life experience. And it shows in the best way on his new record Built to Break, a follow up from last year’s I Am the Man You Know I’m Not. His songs aren’t overly produced or fanciful. They’re just classic sounding alt-country rock and roll jams led with strong guitar playing, and Fauss’ pleasing vocals.

Fauss’ duet with Old 97s’ Rhett Miller on “Eighteen Wheels” is perhaps the most rocking tune on Break, and their voices work well together. In fact, they’re almost similar in tone, strengthening their harmonies. This song sounds like it was fun to record, with Miller and Fauss shouting together an ode to truck driving.

The cover of Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” is an interesting addition to the record, but it ultimately fits in nicely, and its lovely simplicity suits Fauss’s vocal sensibilities well. There’s effortlessness to Fauss’ singing, and when you learn that he never necessarily meant to become a singer, you wonder why. He makes it sound easy, and he sings “Song for Zula” like it was meant just for him.

You can hear notes of Ryan Adams, John Prine and even Old 97s in Fauss’ sound, and his songs are easy to listen to, even when they’re heartbreaking. “I Can’t Make You Happy” is a prime example of this, with its tragic tale of love taking its last breath in a destructive relationship. Fauss evokes pain, but pushes you away, keeping you drawn to him and the smoothness of his guitar melodies. “The Big Catch” is another simple and beautiful tune that tells a story of past love and heartbreak, and it’s full of dreamy harmonies with Jenna Paulette.

Fauss is a seasoned storyteller, perhaps because he’s had a lot of time to hone his skills. And though this record is more rock and roll heavy than his previous work, he still maintains that troubadour essence—just a guy and his guitar, all alone on a stage. And honestly, this is when he shines the brightest. “Come On Down” is perfection in its simplicity, and with that weeping steel guitar accenting his dusty, world-weary voice, it’s a gorgeous and gritty country tune you’ll likely want to hear again and again.

Fauss also has some fun with a more honky-tonk sound on Break, with songs like “I’m Sorry Baby (That’s Just the Way it Goes)”, “Eighteen Wheels” and “A Place Out in the Country”. While his voice is ideal for rock and roll, his melodies and instrumentals are pure country, and these songs show off his ability to blend the two just right. “Never Gonna Last” is the purest of country songs on this record, and it’s also one of the best. A true old-fashioned country duet with Paulette, this is a standout for Fauss.

Even when he’s rocking out, there’s always a bit of twang that shows itself, and thank goodness for that because it adds so much character to his music.

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