Gozer Goodspeed – Running with the Outliers
Folk | Blues
I’ll let you in on a secret. Most music sent to blogs that gets rejected isn’t turned down because it’s bad, but rather because it doesn’t stand out. If a record has plenty of aspects worth criticising then at least that’s a talking point. But if you’re doing much the same thing, to much the same standard, as a dozen other bands or artists then there’s little reason to choose it out of a line-up. Standing out from the crowd doesn’t necessarily mean doing something completely unique or being the very best, although both are very exciting prospects. No, all it requires is for an artist to put their own stamp on their sound by being true to themselves.
While Gozer Goodspeed walks the well worn path of folk and blues, he imbues plenty of his own character into the music. His dark take on the style, and his distinctive vocals, are more than enough to make him a singular voice on the scene. When you’ve heard him once, you’d know him anywhere; a rare and undervalued quality. That alone is reason enough to dive into his debut album Running with the Outliers, but it is an even more rewarding listen for those familiar with his work leading up to it. Compared to his earlier EPs every aspect has been turned up a notch for this release. The production is done to a much higher standard, the arrangements have expanded, even the artwork has had a major glow-up. The psychedelic guitar work on ‘This Is The Pathway’, and especially the brilliant solo in the latter half of ‘Pumas and Neon Signs’, really adds a new dynamic to the record. As fresh and updated as these tracks feel, most importantly they still carry the same charm.
While Outliers feels like a step forward in many ways, there are a few niggles here and there that keep it from being a leap forward. While it has a lot going for it in terms of its general atmosphere and surprisingly eclectic arrangements, it definitely struggles when it comes to hooks. Often the choruses consist of just one line being repeated over and over which can make them memorable for all the wrong reasons. The lack of any proper endearing earworm moments is what holds the album back the most. My only other concern is with its brief run time. While I normally preach quality over quantity, I feel the two go hand in hand here. At just seven tracks it’s scarcely longer than an EP and there a few elements, like the aforementioned hint of psychedelica and the “East meets West” vibe on ‘Gambler’s Last Day’, that I would have liked to have heard being explored more.
There’s still progress to be made, but this debut record certainly sees Gozer Goodspeed moving in the right direction. No matter what pace progress takes however, what matters most is that it is along his own personal path. So long as he continues being an outlier and charting his own course with future releases then half the battle is already won.