The short seven track session on the new The Hell Or High Water has a few forgettable lighter tracks, but the bulk is a heavier alternative rock sound that shakes with emotion. The storytelling is strong. The chord progressions are perfect. And the hooks are anything but boring.
All in all, it proves that breaking with their manager and Virgin Records was the right thing to do. So was adding Matt Carter (rhythm guitar) to replace Elias Reidy in 2008. For those newly familiar with RJA, the band's lineup includes: founders Ronnie Winter (lead vocals, acoustic guitar) and Duke Kitchens (lead guitar, piano, backing vocals) plus Joey Westwood (bass, backing vocals) and Jon Wilkes (drums, backing vocals).
The Hell Or High Water Delivers What RJA Was Meant To Be.
Returning to their roots in Middleburg, Florida, was the right thing at the right time. The breakup was likely bitter. They filmed three videos for the EP, with the first part dedicated to "killing" their old label. Fair is fair. Virgin was accused of killing them on more than one occasion.
Insider "jokes" aside, the EP isn't perfect, but it does have several stunning singles. On My Own and Hell Or High Water are among the top. Don't Hate is a great song, but there is that strained "so you think you can do better" lyric line scream (twice) that distracts from an otherwise solid sound. Of course, the clear driver is the first single out of the box. Choke is dazzling and we're including a fan video live.
The Hell Or High Water EP isn't loved by everybody. Many fans who picked it up because of Lonely Road will wonder about the screaming. Most don't know the back story, with the label seemingly pushing the band in a pop direction and away from alternative rock. Early RJA fans will love it. Many of them are already screaming RJA is back.
The Hell Or High Water by RJA Sweeps A 7.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
As an EP, each stands on its own terms and wakes us for a full-length album that the band hopes to release in early 2011. You can find The Hell Or High Water on iTunes, where it is holding with 4.5 stars. It has yet to hit Amazon.
RJA fans will also be happy to find the full 21 And Up track at ArtistDirect. I still don't think it's the strongest single from the EP, but it clearly underscores the smarter side of RJA that someone, apparently, didn't understand. Good thing that everyone else does.