CD REVIEW: Anthony Neff - Between the Rungs
by: Cyrus Rhodes
"Neff is brilliant"
- INDIE MUSIC DIGEST-
North Carolina based Anthony Neff returns with a collection of songs that criss cross through various genres of Rock, Folk and Americana. The songs on Between the Rungs encompass a variety of styles, but still manage to form a consistent musical palette. The characters that populate the record are wrapped in a struggle – with their country, their addictions, their hearts, and with each other. They find themselves on a ladder, unsure if they’re heading up or down. The hope is that the road will somehow lead them home. Between the Rungs, much like its predecessors, is built upon a solid framework of warm tones, thought-provoking lyrics and lasting melodies. Touches of Americana, rock, folk and pop music are interspersed throughout Anthony’s songs – yet he manages to avoid easy categorization into any one of these labels.
The CD gently takes flight with “Americana Fire” a melancholy acoustic intro piece that serves up solitary vocal delivery from Neff that is passionate, up front and very personal. Track 2 “Killing Me Slow” keeps things moving with methodical intro, rocked out guitar against Neff’s striking baritone and thought provoking lyrical content. Track 3 “Still So Gone” shifts gears a bit with it’s bluesy guitar riffs, impressive feel that flows and ebbs it’s way through emotional fruition. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of classic Mark Kozelek Richard Buckner, Spoon, Chris Isaacs, Pink Floyd and even The National. The actual musical format is very intimate, up close: a personal snapshot of the artist. The songs themselves are very naked and personal with messages revealing the highs and lows of life, love, passion and do I dare say life's observations. Overall the catalogue is extremely melancholy showcasing vintage sadcore but brilliant nonetheless. Besides the 4 piece standard you will also notice brief splashes of Piano, Hammond Organ, orchestral strings, impressive guitar licks and solos, all built upon an impressive rhythm section. The guitar playing abilities from Neff are impressive nonetheless. Timing is spot on within each piece. I might add Neff displays an impressive baritone, impressive vibrato and strong emotional timber. His vocal timer reminds me of a cross between Gordon Lightfoot and Chris Isaacs. Lyrical content is extremely revealing and thought provoking. All songs cut deep to the core and its obvious Neff is also a very capable songwriter. From striking “Devils Car” to hypnotic The Ladder” to methodical “Last Waltz” to rocking “Company Time” and Long Way from Love” to smooth moving “Heat Turns Back“ this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with Track 10 “Home” the perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.
It’s hard to find any noticeable weaknesses with this CD so I give up!
Neff will work best on days you want a delicate, thought provoking and intellectual singer/songwriter sound to fill your atmosphere. "Between the Rungs” is a brilliant, striking and compelling musical production. Its strong suit is it’s overall consistency, lyrical wisdom and bold straightforwardness of Neff. Make no bones about it folks; It took raw honesty to write and perform some of these songs. What I like most about Neff is there is no attempt to hide how he feels, or sugar coat the truth. I really admire artists out there who are themselves and just let the chips fall where they may. Praise goes out to the artist that has the courage to show us something real and genuine beneath their veil of vanity. Neff is one of those artists. Be advised you may not want to listen to this CD on the day you get fired, but if you like melancholy music that provides a very real assessment of the human condition then you should jump into the CD head first. The real selling point for any song is the (singer to listener) emotional connection. Here experienced artists will execute and make this every time. It cannot be faked and has to be totally genuine. At the end of the day people don't buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions. In this aspect Neff is brilliant!