At first glance, Detroit Rebellion‘s debut album looks like an album from a street punk band from Detroit. The punk ideals are there with the rebellious mentality and the need to shed light on social injustice, but the aggressive sound of distorted guitars and fast beats isn’t here: this is a one man acoustic show. Oh, yeah, he’s from Providence, Rhode Island; not Detroit.
DR only borrowed the name from the Detroit, Michigan uprising of 1967. Along his musical journey of singing personal messages about his frustrations with a system that took away his family farm, he also borrows equal parts from Johnny Cash and Billy Bragg. While he shows a knack for his country/folk side on opener “Don’t Make Waves”, with its earthy riff, he fairs a little better when exploring blues on the catchy “Meeting of the Minds”. The post-punk “A Case of Mistaken Identity” moves at a brisk pace; before DR really comes into his own with more intimate tunes like “Didn’t See It Comin’”, “Madison”, and “The Long Shot”. He also often shows traces of some pretty heartfelt Americana, and his vocal range also makes an impressive splash on “War Crimes” and “Didn’t See It Comin’”.
Though I admire the fact that DR chose not to include ANY other instrument on this debut release, it seems like some songs might have benefited by an additional musical voice. Maybe its just the production value but the delivery on some of these songs sounds a little forced with just the guitar and DR’s sometimes conversational singing style. It could be that he’s limiting himself, but songs like “War Crimes”, “Step Into the Fire” and “New Orleans” have great ideas and could be even better with additional instruments that would strengthen his soulful croon. Again, I still really enjoy these songs, and I might be stretching my complaints, but its a small gripe I wanted to point out.
Other than those small complaints, this is a solid release from an ambitious new artist that shouldn’t go unnoticed. Production value is the only thing to worry about here as it sounded a little too slick sometimes, but I guess if someone’s this talented they deserve to sound pretty good anyway and that says a lot.