Country may have died with Johnny Cash, as the saying goes, but the whiskey-drinking genre makes a promising comeback with Manic Heart, where locals Richie & the Rocketdogs take both instrumental and vocal elements of country-western tunes and spin them with an alternative edge.
The quartet’s mastermind and namesake, Richie Reinholdt, spent his early days with western swing and newgrass bands before eventually taking refuge in the Top Hat, where he played for 12 years during Wasted Wednesdays. After starting an acoustic project, The Acousticals, Reinholdt sought to conquer his electric vision, and adopted a few other strays—Ted Lowe, Bruce Threlkeld, Mike Freemole and guest artist Larry Chung—to form the Rocketdogs.
Manic Heart certainly emphasizes Reinholdt’s loud factor, introducing country melodies with an upbeat tempo. As the album unfolds, catchy beats take on folk-like vocals, with a subtle acoustic twang in the background. “This Bottle” exemplifies typical country rhythm as two vocalists croon, “This glass is full of goodbyes. Wine for the sorrow and gin for tears—two more shots of whiskey to wipe away the years.”
With a solid balance between somber reality and comic relief, Reinholdt delivers exactly what the liner notes promise: “Soap opera songs that want to be played loud.” (Megan McLean)