Richie Kotzen - 'Salting Earth'

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Richie Kotzen - 'Salting Earth'

Builds on Kotzen's formidable existing catalogue with assured, classy style.

Prolific since 1989, Richie Kotzen has only been on this writer's radar for a decade, but in that time he's arguably become my favourite solo artist. Although the name was familiar, I was never a fan of Poison or Mr Big in their original guises and therefore wasn't inclined to check out their post-CC DeVille/Paul Gilbert releases featuring Kotzen on guitar. My introduction came in 2007 when I played a Rock magazine's cover-mounted CD and heard his then-new track 'Fooled Again'; the first listen intrigued me – the second had me spellbound thanks to Kotzen's sizzling guitar prowess, husky-yet-smooth voice and sublime song-writing.

'Salting Earth' is Kotzen's twenty-first solo release (in a career that also includes collaborations such as The Winery Dogs and Wilson Hawk) and is happily a step up from 2015's 'Cannibals', a release that was a patchy mix of fine new compositions and less-great, previously unreleased songs given the odd tweak.

Opener 'End Of Earth' runs for a substantial six minutes & twenty seconds and shares a similarly experimental song structure to 'Help Me' from Kotzen's last truly superb solo release – 2011's '24 Hours'. 'Thunder' is definitively Kotzen in sound and execution, itself evoking 'Love Is Blind' from the aforementioned '...Hours' thanks to its mid-tempo swagger and supercharged Blues dynamics, while the slinky 'My Rock' showcases Kotzen's deliciously deft bass chops (he plays all instrumentation on his solo albums, drums and keys included).

'This Is Life' drips subterranean speakeasy cool and is about as far from Kotzen's shred-tastic Shrapnel Records debut as his body of work gets – good on him too, as he's forty-seven, not seventeen anymore, and has long since matured into his soulful prime.

'Cannon Ball' perhaps edges it as my favourite track. There's something so persuasive about the way the clean sounding keys and Kotzen's plaintive voice are joined by just the right amount of guitar crunch on the minute mark, while – not for the first time – his lyrics have the uncanny ability to dovetail perfectly with life's events.

Blips, of which there are two, are minor; 'Divine Power' slightly underwhelms, while I was hoping that the twee 'Grammy' (released as a single last summer) wouldn't make the album...

'Salting Earth' builds on Kotzen's formidable existing catalogue with assured, classy style, and it ably makes this writer's top dozen Richie Kotzen releases.

Caesar Barton

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