Andy Budd – Ragtop Monterey
2011, Red Bush Records
Folk/Americana singer/songwriter Andy Budd is relatively known, but perhaps not for long. Budd’s third album, Ragtop Monterey, finds Budd blending a delicate songwriting touch and great musicianship, while raising the bar with his impressive previous work. There are no prolonged solos or flashy sounds, just good old fashioned songwriting with a Nashville sound that hasn’t been heard on commercial radio in decades.
Ragtop Monterey opens with the old school train song "Old Freight", an escapist fantasy in traditional country fashion with bluegrass accents in the arrangement. Budd has a workingman's voice; not pretty, per se, but with a comfortably gruff sound that lends authenticity to the performance. "If You Did That Today" is a catchy tune highlighting the differences between the child rearing philosophies of today compared to those of a generation or two ago. Many of today's taboos were thought perfectly normal thirty or forty years ago, like smoking during pregnancy to riding in the back of a car without a seatbelt; things that would result in a CPS referral nowadays. Budd's song is tongue-in-cheek, but may also leave you wondering about the sanity of such bureaucratic efforts.
"Don't Bother Calling" is a humble kiss off from a jilted lover. She cheated on him, and he's telling her to get lost in heartfelt, articulate terms. The arrangement is solid, but it's Budd's lyrics that really grab your attention here, "With a bullet in every chamber you played lover's roulette. It's hard to forgive and even harder to forget." "Ragtop Monterey" is a love song to a car his grandmother once owned, captured in a catchy, country arrangement. This is a fun one that will appeal to the car buffs out there. "Time Won't Do It" is a woeful heartbreaker skeptical of healing powers of time, particularly when it comes to heartbreak. The classic country arrangement is a treat, and the chorus is inescapable. "Bread Upon The Waters" is a catchy number exhorting listeners to live the good life but not take more than their fare share. It's a great tune with a powerful-yet-simple message that's worth being reminded of.
"He's Still Missing Her" is a tongue-in-cheek tune about one man's dogged determination to get rid of his sweetheart, "He's still missing her but his aim is getting better..." Budd throws these comical curveballs once in a while just to make sure you're awake, but even if the lyrics are occasionally full of whimsy the music is deadly serious and well constructed. "Ol' Work Truck" is full of reminiscence over a friend who has seen him through thick and thin. The truck in question becomes a symbol of American Pride and the connection between generations of working class men; a love song and a memory of what America once was. Budd heads back to the honky-tonk for "Baa Baa Black Sheep", a catchy number about himself and his sister and their roles as the family black sheep. Budd once again shows a gift for turns of phrase with lines like "The two of us lived up to daddy's fears and mama's tears." Budd closes with "Godspeed", a sweet memorial to a friend who has finally given up the fight but who fought like few others. If you've lost someone you love dearly recently, or if the loss is still fresh in your heart, this song will be a tear-jerker. It's an honest and heartfelt piece of songwriting that leaves pieces of itself embedded in your psyche.
Andy Budd is a great story-teller with a healthy dose of wit thrown in. Ragtop Monterey is the sort of album you'll find yourself hitting repeat on again and again. Budd blossoms under the steady hand of producer Chip Hardy (Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntyre, George Strait), and delivers ten songs that will get stuck in your brain and stay around long enough to petition for rights. You'll find yourself more and more engrossed with Ragtop Monterey, and Andy Budd, with each listen.
Rating: 4 Stars (Out of 5)