(self-produced, 2003)

Sometimes it's hard to tell what a performance is missing until the problem is corrected. It would have been hard to claim that something was missing from Ray Greiche's Everything's Fine, a good, solid performance with a collection of appealing songs. But now it seems there were a few things lacking, and they were the members of Redshell.

With the band's self-titled debut album, Redshell, Greiche has done more than fill out a few threadbare areas in his performance. The challenge of coordinating his music with others has added a subtle depth to his songwriting, something hard to identify in its absence but impossible to miss once heard. The occasional threadbare melody or unpolished edges from Fine are replaced now with smooth guitar licks and a stealth rhythm section that smoothes out the rough edges of Greiche's native rock style and lets it roll.

Redshell is a fairly new band, but anyone could be forgiven for thinking this was a long unknown underground group, one with a decade or more of history between them. They play with the confidence of a permanent fixture, guitars sliding around vocals, percussion moving back and forth with the easy trust of longtime partners. It's hard to discuss Redshell without making them sound like "Greiche's band," since he performs the lead vocals and writes the songs. But a single hearing makes it clear that this really a collaboration of equals, with each member adding something essential to the group's sound. J. Edmund T's guitar work is every bit as much a central focus as the vocals, providing much of the essential feel for the album. Ben Zwein's bass and Patrick Carmichael's drums never claim center stage, or even force themselves into the viewer's awareness, but the sheer unobtrusiveness with which they create the constant backbone of the album is remarkable.

This is an album that rightly belongs in the oft-maligned "soft rock" or "power ballad" category, a concoction of rock beats softly mellowed with a touch of blues and polished in the studio to a romantic dark gloss. There's still plenty of rock drive in tracks like "The One to Cry" and the solo upbeat piece "Pretty Girl," but there's also a relaxed sensibility that suggest these songs have no need to prove themselves. This is rock 'n' roll on the morning after a good party, one where things got just the right bit out of hand.

The one disappointment about Redshell is the surprising brevity. With only six officials tracks and one strange, meandering bonus soundbite, the album is just long enough to captivate a listener without being quite deep enough to satisfy. It's hard to believe the group just ran out of steam. From the opening notes of "Wait for You" it's obvious that Redshell's music has plenty of energy, and it's energy ready to pace itself for the long haul. The six tracks that do exist lend themselves to hours of replay, but more diversity could only strengthen the album. With luck, future releases will be meatier. Luck or not, future releases are surely forthcoming; music this good can hardly be turned off at the source.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 6 November 2004