Album Review – The Rhyolite Sound’s “Mojave Gold”
Breaking out of Las Vegas like a bunch of bad characters that just knocked over a bank and have an appointment to keep at a high desert cathouse, here comes The Rhyolite Sound roaring out of Southern Nevada, seasoned in the seedy lounges and casino bars of Sin City where it’s not just smoking that’s still allowed inside, soaked in the kerosene of countless nights playing 3-set gigs, and lit on fire from a high passion for authentic country music.
For those fans of folks like Whitey Morgan and Jackson Taylor who are tirelessly searching for that hard-twanging and boot stomping country music sound to bust through your high tolerance for honky tonk like 100 Proof, you’ve hit on the mother lode with Mojave Gold. Having spent countless hours entertaining folks often there more for the domestic well specials and quarter slots, they’ve become showmen of the highest order, and deadly tight in their delivery.
The Rhyolite Sound is not for the faint of heart. The bass drum is pounding, the amps are cranked, the train beat is rolling, and though they butt right up to Southern rock, they still remain decidedly country. Songs of bad decisions and desperation are what they’re all about. There’s no hiding what a song like “Margaritas and Cocaine” is conveying, while a song like “He Can Have Her” is as much of a heartbreaker as any.
Though no doubt what most punctuates the band’s sound is a hard country style indicative of modern Outlaw music steeped in classic country tradition—and the band looks the part as the kind of cats you’d want on your side in an alley brawl—there’s an emphasis to make sure The Rhyolite Sound is something you can’t just pigeon hole into the stereotypical “Outlaw” sound. Born from the band’s ability to cater a set of music to whatever crowd they find themselves playing in front of, they can roll off the edge a little bit and play country music that’s more traditional and classic as well.
Larry Rhea is the big burly red-headed front man, and he’s the guy in the driver’s seat for many of the band’s hard-charging songs. But the heavily mustachioed Erik Alesi brings a bit less gruff, and a bit more substance to the band with the Southwester-flavored country song “There I Go,” and the honest and introspective “Ain’t No Outlaw.”
You may worry an act like this takes themselves too seriously, which is a symptom of some modern Outlaw country bands, but they can play a cover song like Mickey Newbury’s “Why You Been Gone So Long,” and leave the machismo behind to do the song justice. And what really surprises you as the album goes along is how funky some of the songs get. All the tones and textures on Mojave Gold are spot on, including the swanky guitar and keys parts, and the final song “I Think Too Much When I Drink Too Much” catches the band stretching their legs and showcasing their musicianship, which is great throughout the record. The songwriting isn’t always stellar, but the music most definitely is.
The Rhyolite Sound and Mojave Gold are wickedly entertaining. But some of the shifting of sounds found on this record may be jarring for some, and could leave you wondering, “What is the Rhyolite Sound?” Rhyolite is a type of volcanic rock similar to granite, and can be found around the Las Vegas area. There is also a town called Rhyolite that sits at the edge of the Mojave Desert north and west of Sin City. Forming the band in 2013, these boys are proud of where they’re from, and looking to put Southern Nevada on the country music map through this record.
It’s a bit curious why ol’ Sin City didn’t become more of a hot spot for country music aside from nostalgia shows in the corporate casinos, Tanya Tucker starting her career in nearby Henderson, and that Flying Burrito Brothers song. With its proximity to Bakersfield and its draw on Outlaws and bad characters, you would think it would have it own distinct scene. But it does boast its own distinct country band, and it’s hard, it’s heavy, it’s unapologetic, and it’s to be enjoyed by country audiences well beyond the Desert Southwest.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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The Rhyolite Sound is Larry Reha, Erik Alesi, A.J. Palluck, James Caselton, and Jason Aragon.
October 25, 2019 @ 8:53 am
Sounds like Shaver an octave down.
No better friend, no worse enemy. Does the heart good to hear this out on the road. Thanks, Trig!
October 25, 2019 @ 10:05 am
Listening to the videos posted I have to say your review is spot on!
October 25, 2019 @ 10:41 am
Perfect soundtrack for a friday night.
Good on record…but i think it will sound better live & in front of an audience.
My current album on repeat: Linda Gail Lewis, Anne Marie Lewis & Mary Jean Lewis – The Lewis 3: Complete Recordings (21 Tracks / Released: 10/21)
The harmony vocals & classic tracks like “I’ve Got A Quarter In My Pocket”. Good mood music.
October 25, 2019 @ 1:34 pm
Saw them perform at the Ameripolitan Awards in Memphis earlier this year. First time I’d even heard of them aside from their Ameripolitan nomination. Absolutely killer live. Las Vegas’s best kept secret.
October 25, 2019 @ 11:15 am
I went to the record release last night.
Discovered them when the opened for Mike & the Moonpies here.
Saw them a week later opening for American Aquarium.
Damn good band.
October 25, 2019 @ 11:22 am
Good stuff indeed!!!! Can we ever thank you enough for all these great discoveries? Any wish for Xmas Trig?
October 25, 2019 @ 4:27 pm
Hank Jr meets Whitey Morgan
October 31, 2019 @ 5:42 pm
in a really seedy bar with a bit of waylon thrown in
October 26, 2019 @ 5:19 am
Great band. Great album. Thanks for reviewing it and bringing it to the attention of the masses.
October 26, 2019 @ 2:01 pm
Alright alright……….you guys have been listening to Country much longer that I have. Have you ever seen in all your years anything equal to the unprecedented amount of incredible music we’ve been blessed with in the last few months? This album is real good too as I’m listening. To me all of this is unbelievable and trying to keep up with it all is a daunting task on top of making time for the albums I already love the Jinks’, Jenkins, Jarells, Pardi, and Moonpies. Also can’t stop playing the goofy Paul Cauthen album which I originally thought WTF? Now it’s grown on me….lol How many more albums are comin’ Trig?
October 26, 2019 @ 7:17 pm
There were some really excellent albums at the first of the year, but there were also a TON of forgettable ones. Since late July, it’s been the most ridiculous release period I have ever experienced. So many great albums, and coming out in such rapid succession, there’s no way to keep up. Luckily (for me at least) it is dying down now.
We’ll have to remember this period during portions of 2019 when it feels like no good music is coming out. So many top-level artists released their records in Q3 of 2019, there just won’t be much left for 2020.
October 26, 2019 @ 4:29 pm
Trig, you’re murder on my bank account 🙂
Thanks for the review and recommendation. Thoroughly enjoying it.
October 26, 2019 @ 5:52 pm
Its about time someone out with the hard county sound.. This guys are great. Listen for the frist time tonite and about damm time.. That old county sound..
October 26, 2019 @ 6:22 pm
That was a fun album to listen to, but now all I want are margaritas, cocaine, cheap women and beer.
Oh well, best to stay away from Vegas altogether.
October 28, 2019 @ 4:03 pm
Sounds like John Goodman