This week on my radio show (Playtime with Bill Turck and Kerri Kendall, Sundays 1-3pm on WCGO AM1590 in Chicago) we spoke with Jazz great Shawn Maxwell. Maxwell confided the difficulty, in our mass media world, at simply being himself as an Artist. That’s one reason I’ve followed roots-country-blues singer/songwriter and Nebraska native Rascal Martinez. Rascal has forged a sound at once accessible but all his own. It is that confidence which defines his latest album, Hard Love

San Quentin, the opening track off Rascal Martinez’s grittiest and best album to date, Hard Love, reveals an Artist at the top of his game. This is pure roots Rock and Roll with that Nashville grit. A fan since Rascal’s very first album, it’s been a decade since the release of The Long Road. In that ten years Rascal has continued to evolve, while remaining true to his Americana roots. Hard Love is no exception.

Rascal has always worn his heart on his artistic sleeve, exploring the trials of love and relationships as he’s lived them. That brings a freshness and immediacy to deftly self-produced albums. Thematically, Hard Love continues on the strength of Far From Home, which saw stand-out songs like All That I Need (featuring Emery Adeline), the toe tapping Never Alone and the Buddy Holly-esque Why You Gotta Saw Goodbye. What makes Hard Love stand out is that daring step into the unknown begun with Far from Home, but realized on this album. Silver Street’s James Fleege brings that old Sun Records feel to San Quentin in particular. Backed with piano and Hammond Organ from Bryan Wheeler, under Rascal’s masterful production, takes the song and Hard Love to that next level.

But there is something more that sets Hard Love above and beyond. it comes through with Finders Keepers and most especially on the album’s bookend Rocker, Don’t Tell Me. Collaborator, co-writer and brother Marcello Sanchez is showcased fully on drums and percussion. On the Country ballad, Marcello’s percussion provided the perfect cadence.

State of mind is Rascal and Marcello’s ensemble piece. It is a powerful song about that private heartbreak lovers bear alone.

You took me for granted, time after time.

Left me alone in my state of mind

No one’s gonna find me in the shape that I’m in

Only a fool has been where I’ve been

No one’s gonna find me in my state of mind

Money can’t buy love, but it can change your mind…

But it is Until I Met You which so perfectly blends all those other elements into the pure magic that is Rascal live. “You’re probably out doing your thing,” Rascal laments in the song, “I’m stuck here in the same routine…” Hardly, according to this fan and observer. Hard Love is pure Rascal, continually evolving but at his core writing and performing that same heartfelt, American roots music that he began with a decade ago.

And the journey continues…

Find out more about Rascal and Hard Love by visiting Rascal Martinez.com

 

 

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