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Christian Lopez – Red Arrow

Discussion in 'Article Discussion' started by Melody Bot, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. Melody Bot

    Your friendly little forum bot. Staff Member

    This article has been imported from for discussion. All of the forum rules still apply.

    2017 has been a miraculous year for young talent in the country/roots music space. From Colter Wall to Tyler Childers to Lindsay Ell, a fair chunk of the best albums in those genres this year have been made by twenty-somethings. Add Christian Lopez to the list. At 22 years old, Lopez is just crossing the boundary between youth and adulthood. His brand-new sophomore record, Red Arrow, is all about making the journey.

    A crisp collection of roots-pop songs, built on a foundation of catchy melodies and organic instrumentation, Red Arrow is as immediate a record as you’ll hear this year. That might be a surprise, given Lopez’s youth. Shouldn’t a guy who’s only been on the planet since 1995 still be learning the ropes of this whole album-making thing? Apparently not. While Lopez is young, he’s not inexperienced. He’s been touring tirelessly for the past few years, building a following largely on the back of hard work and strong word of mouth. And it also can’t hurt that he’s made his first two albums with two of the best and most respected producers working in roots music right now.

    In 2015, Lopez released his debut record Onward, which was produced by none other than Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson). This time around, he switches gears with the help of Marshall Altman, who’s manned the boards for everyone from Frankie Ballard to Will Hoge. While Cobb is obviously a studio whiz, given his recent track record, Altman seems like the better fit for Lopez’s style. The two unlock hook after hook here, dropping the songs on Red Arrow somewhere in the no man’s land between pop, country, and folk.

    “Swim the River,” the album’s leadoff track and lead single, is the perfect collision of all three genres. Falsetto-inflected vocals, deft acoustic fingerpicking, and dynamic fiddle work from session ace Stuart Duncan form the backbone of the song, an exuberant track that captures the excitement (and perhaps foolishness) of young love. “I ain’t good at aiming, but I’m taking every shot/Pointing my red arrow at your heart,” Lopez sings at the song’s climactic moment, before cycling back to the chorus: “I’d swim the river up and back if it’d make me your man.” It’s a song that makes young love feel every bit as thrilling and epic as it seems when you’re actually in the thick of it.

    Listening through Red Arrow, you can tell why Lopez has garnered such a following on the strength of his live performances. Sometimes, young or inexperienced artists can struggle to capture the spark of their shows on tape. Altman, with his history of recording rock-leaning country artists (or country-leaning rock artists, depending on your perspective), doesn’t let that happen here. Lopez comes across as a charismatic performer and bandleader on these songs, from the playfully nostalgic “1972” (about taking a vintage car for an autumn drive) to the foot-tapping “Don’t Wanna Say Goodnight” (about a guy trying every line he can think of to get the girl he likes to come home with him).

    Lopez keeps things moving by oscillating Red Arrow between lovely acoustic ballads and fun, snappy rockers. The switches afford the album terrific pacing, but they also reflect the confusion of being in your early 20s and being just a little lost. The ballads are tender and openhearted. A perfect example is the radiant “Silver Line,” where Lopez encourages a gal to “put a pretty dress on and I’ll take you out tonight,” before intoning “I just wanna love somebody I like” on the chorus. Who hasn’t been there before: wanting to feel the intoxication that comes with falling in love, but lacking the prospects?

    The rockers, meanwhile, are packed with put-on bravado. Take the aforementioned “Don’t Wanna Say Goodnight,” where all the pick-up lines mask the almost painful, aching desire that the protagonist feels for the object of his affection. Or take the pop-driven “Say Goodbye,” where Lopez fantasizes about breaking the heart of the girl who already broke his—even though he knows it probably won’t make him feel any better. Lopez recently told Rolling Stone Country that he wanted to act his age on this record, “and sometimes that’s young and stupid.” The upbeat songs on Red Arrow often reflect that wish: their stories are loaded with bad decisions, naïve thoughts, and thrilling Saturday nights that will inevitably lead to Saturday morning regrets. But it’s okay: that’s all a part of growing up.

    Red Arrow moves away from “young and stupid” as it barrels forward, leaving behind its infectious first half for a more introspective side two. The highlight there is “All the Time,” a largely acoustic-driven ballad that echoes with the influence of Jackson Browne, or maybe James Taylor. Unlike many of the songs on the record, the lyrics to “All the Time” feel ambiguous, capturing snapshots of moments and feelings rather than telling a clear narrative. The final lines, though (“When I say my last goodbye/I’m gonna hate to see you cry/But that’s alright/It happens all the time”) feel like the melancholy musings of ramblin’ man who is always having to leave. (Side one track “Someday” offers the flipside, a song about a long-overdue homecoming.)

    Ultimately, Red Arrow is a record about push and pull. The push and pull between letting your guard down and falling in love with someone, or retaining that the tough guy exterior so many young men think is important. The push and pull between hitting the road and chasing your dreams into the great unknown, or staying in the comfortable embrace of your hometown The push and pull between trying to be a Peter Pan, or realizing that it’s time to grow up. “Still on its Feet,” the album’s closing track, is the logical end to the journey. Like so many other country songs, the lyrics look at something ordinary (a worn-down wooden chair) to build an extended metaphor for something extraordinary. “It’s been dinner at a table/A lightbulb changer, too/A place to sit when you weren’t able to stand and hear the news/It’s been a lover’s morning coffee/And a widow losing sleep/Yeah, it might be on its last leg/But it’s still on its feet.”

    I probably don’t need to tell you that the song isn’t about a chair. Instead, it’s about the durability of dreams. No matter how many things change, dreams remain intact—bruised, abused, battered, and falling apart, but still there, tucked in the corner of the dusty old room that is your heart.

    Here’s hoping Christian Lopez keeps his dreams alive, because clearly, those dreams lead to good records.

  2. youwontknow

    If I smile with my teeth, bet you'd believe me

    Very cool tunes! Can't believe he's 22.

    As always, thanks for the heads up on everything country, folk, blues, americana, roots, western, and anything yee-haw-esque whatsoever @Craig Manning !!
    Craig Manning likes this.
  3. Craig Manning

    @FurtherFromSky Moderator

    Haha, happy to do it!
    youwontknow likes this.