Mark Ripp is an Americana singer/songwriter who started out over 40 years ago playing the coffee houses of Toronto, followed by ten years fronting the Canadian roots rock band The Bel-Vistas. Ripp then spent a couple decades raising his family, pursuing a solo career and sometimes acting as producer for other artists. His newest addition to a very large catalog is titled All Things Considered Vol 1, though it has nothing to do with the venerable NPR show we have here in the states.
Ripp says that starting out, the music he made was called “roots rock,” “folk rock,” and “blues rock” but is now more commonly known as Americana. His musical influences have been many, but those setting the highest bar include Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Nick Lowe and John Hiatt (who I just happened to see a couple weeks ago!). Ripp believes his material will appeal to “people who are fans of thoughtful, melodic, roots-based song writing.”
Aside from Ripp on vocals and guitar, he gives profuse credit to drummer John Toffoli and says this album is “the fruit of our long and ongoing collaboration.” Toffili’s drums were recorded in his basement, which was also a place to work out many of these songs. Eugene Tanaka played bass and sang background, along with Monte Horton on guest guitar. Most tracking, mixing and mastering took place at Wexford Electric.
Even a cursory listen to Ripp’s songs (which is almost impossible, as they quickly pull you in) makes clear how he’s accomplished so much in his musical career: songs published by Sony Music, recording artist with Eureka and Blue Rose Records, extensive radio and video play worldwide and opening for notable live acts. There’s no second guessing whether or not he’s got true songwriter chops.
“Can’t Shake You” hits the Americana tropes hard with a snaking slide guitar, a country-Byrds arrangement and beat. Ripp sings in a lower-pitched conversational tone similar to Johnny Cash (but without the decades of drink and drugs). It’s during the choruses where he really shines, harmonizing with himself (or one of his background singers) quite beautifully, with hints of Tom Petty. The idea of repeating the line “no matter, no matter what I do” is a simple on its face, but that’s where great hooks come from.
“Dog N’ Cat Blues” is such a radical change from the previous song that I had to check my Bandcamp to make sure it wasn’t playing a different artist. The guitars are crunchy electrics playing a descending riff perfectly matching the vocal line, with teen sensation drums playing a Rolling Stones blues rock beat. Ripp’s harmonica has a Canned Heat bite. Ripp convincingly proves that just because you start mellow, you can rock hard.
“Robots” would be worth the price of admission just for the opening line: “Nobody calls me but the robots.” It’s funny because it sounds futuristic, but a moment of thought makes me realize: he’s right! Robo Calls are Robots! The song itself is a mellow minor key ballad with sweet twangy guitar interjections bathed in tremolo.
Coming from a Canadian, “My Father Was An American” is especially poignant: “My father was an American / He kept a gun in the closet at home / He knew that he had to go it alone…” The approach here recalls John Mellencamp but nothing will prepare you for the twist ending. More of that awesome harmonica caps the tale.
On “That Girl” Ripp has an acoustic-and-bongos setup similar to the Beatles’ Help period (specifically “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” which seems more than a little coincidental!). Ripp is joined on background vocals by his kids Madalen and Max. I have no idea how old they are (clearly not toddlers) but they sound great! The final solo almost quotes “Eight Miles High” by The Byrds. One of my clear faves! “Never Enough” is a swampy, minor key acoustic vamp with yet another sweet, celebratory chorus of the type Ripp can seemingly “rip through” in his sleep.
“Old Man Car” brings us back to boogie rock with a ‘50s style vocal. It’s another clever idea, describing those old vehicles driving slowly in the right hand lane with a cassette deck: “No hyped up bass, just loud and clean.” Given the topic, the purposely oldies-but-goodies music makes sense.
“You Don’t Owe Me Anything” is an unabashedly sweet ballad calling out to a love affair that’s come to an end: “Now we’re all square / At least from where I sit / and you don’t owe me anything.” Love the cooing harmonies and lush acoustics here. “Out Of Mind” runs just over three minutes but feels like a Tex-Mex epic with a touch of surf music for good measure.
“Large Of Heart” wraps up the show with a robust Americana showcase, again reflecting some of the best within that genre (Petty, Hiatt, etc.). Ripp’s acoustic rings like a bell while he takes a vocal that’s both tough and restrained, with a final blast of classic blues harp.
There’s no denying this man’s talent and absolutely no reason not to check him out today!