Riley Downing of The Deslondes will release his debut solo album Start It Over on May 14th via New West Records. The 12-song set was co-produced by Andrijia Tokic (Alabama Shakes, Hurray for the Riff Raff) & John James Tourville of the Deslondes. On Start It Over, Downing, Tokic, and Tourville are joined by an incredible lineup of musicians including Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs, Greenhornes) on electric bass, Dennis Crouch (Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, co-founder of Nashville’s acclaimed The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill) on double bass, Peter Keys (P-Funk, Lynyrd Skynyrd) on melotron, Meg Coleman (Yola) and Jimmy Lester (Los Straightjackets, Blaze Foley) on drums, Jeff Taylor (George Strait, Elvis Costello, The Time Jumpers) on keyboards, Derry Deborja (Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, John Prine) on Farfisa, Kyshona Armstrong on vocals, and more.
Downing has shared the video for the first single “Deep Breath,” saying the song “exemplifies the album’s loose, roots-driven feel. At times reminiscent of the laid-back, rhythm-heavy sound of ’70s Tulsa, with expected doses of New Orleans and fuzzed out guitar that is otherworldly, it’s easy to imagine that the tune is some long-lost single from a bygone era.” See the “Deep Breath” video, directed by Joshua Shoemaker below…
The group’s 2014 self-titled debut was a breakout hit, praised by NPR as “energized, elegant and new,” and their follow-up, Hurry Home, earned similar acclaim with Rolling Stone calling it “a gritty, grimy mix of early rock ‘n’ roll and lo-fi R&B.” Upon their hiatus, Downing returned to his home in Missouri, helping his brother with his plumbing business and embarking on some short solo runs.
A passionate record collector, primarily of 45rpm singles, Downing and his Deslondes band mate John James Tourville decided it might be fun to collaborate and release a single. The songs kept coming and a full album was quickly realized with Downing and Tourville beginning a long-distance collaboration, adding longtime Deslondes producer Tokic into the musical chain as well. The three hashed out songwriting, arrangement, and production ideas by passing demos back and forth from their respective homes – Downing in Missouri, Tourville in North Carolina, and Tokic in Tennessee – during the months of lockdown. By the time the three met up in person at Tokic’s Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville, everyone had been quarantined at home for two months, nary a gig or jam session to be had.
Downing’s ability to set gripping, evocative narratives within soundscapes that weave together country, blues, folk, R&B, bluegrass, rock, soul and whatever else catches his ear is something that, once you hear it, is hard to shake free from. Same goes for his voice — deep, dusty, and drawling, it’s an instrument that can stop you in your tracks with its character and expressiveness, as well as through his knack for laying out complex emotions in plainspoken, direct language. Start It Over reflects the mingling of past and present, traditional and unusual, that has long characterized Downing’s musical makeup. Joy comes through loud and clear on the album, which, even in its most serious and somber moments — and also given the fact that it was recorded during the pandemic — radiates with a sincere appreciation for life and living in the here and now.
Riley Downing’s Start It Over will be available across digital retailers, compact disc, as well as “Sea Glass & Turquoise” color vinyl. Start It Over is available for pre-order NOW via NEW WEST RECORDS.
Photo credit: Tamara Grayson