Billy Roberts was raised in Moree, Australia, and he took to music in his early twenties, inspired by bands and artists such as Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Not limited to those influences, he took great strides to learn by listening to further artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, The Arcade Fire, Buddy Holly, and the Black Keys, among others, taking elements from each and beginning to incorporate various elements into his personal songwriting style.
That style of music, country rock with flourishes from hard rock, folk, and occasional blues, is one that leaves the artist feeling somewhat alienated in his native Australia where mainstream country music, as a rule, is not very popular. That’s led to issues with Roberts finding artists to play with in country, eventually leading Billy to seek out a studio in Nashville to record his debut album with producer Billy Anderson at Cumberland Studios.
If you don’t care for the new country music in general, because it reminds you more of pop music from by-gone decades, you can be sure that Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders are different. This music sounds a lot more like traditional country. Billy reminds me of a few country icons from the past that play guitar as well as they sing, something along the lines of Merle Haggard or Marty Stuart.
Over the years, many have attempted to give definition to country music. But no one has had the audacity to name their record “The Last Of the Originals.” Not until Billy Roberts. With such an overarching and dauntless title, Roberts has a lot to live up to. And over the course of the 7 tracks that I heard, he rarely disappoints.
Another reason why Billy Roberts excels as a songwriter is that he doesn’t resign himself to singing the sugary “I love you and I need you” songs. If country music is defined as songs that deal with the issues of life, then these songs are spot on as he goes 360°. Producer Billy Anderson at the helm keeps the production lean and lanky, yet bringing out the consummate country and western artist that is inside the arch-Aussie, Roberts.
Every song on album I listened to, is phenomenal, and exemplifies the very core of the genre. I would be hard pressed to say that there is a single bad track in the bunch. Prime cuts are, “My Baby Gone Cold”, “No More Mr Nice Guy”, “Not That Special” and “Davy Crockett and the Alamo.”
This album is an all-round example of what real Country music is all about. The songs are great and really convey an honest and heartfelt message often over looked by other genres and artists.
To music fans who want to look into country music but never have taken the leap, Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders is a great place to start. You will not regret it. Even after many, consecutive plays, “The Last Of the Originals” continues to be a great joy to listen to.