Review | Rob Lamothe – Gravity re-issue [2CD + Vinyl]

Border Town Sound Records

Following the disbandment of his award-wining band Riverdogs, Rob Lamothe embarked on a long solo trail leading him and his music on a journey lasting nearly 3 decades. Coming full circle with the reunion of the band and its consecutive releases, Lamothe now revisits his debut album. His 1996 album `Gravity’ is a remarkable showcase of his highly skilled song writing and masterful lyrical depth. The record highlights Lamothe’s exceptional ability to craft poetic and emotionally resonant lyrics, exploring themes of human experiences with honesty and vulnerability. 


Rob Lamothe possesses one of the warmest and most resonant voices in rock music. He showcased his impressive vocals on albums with his band and as a solo artist, carving deep into the emotional spectrum. While his recent album `The New Truth’ with Cross Country Driver ventures back into harder-rocking territory, I embrace his return to this singer-songwriter style, especially of `Gravity’.

This album marked a turning point in the career of Rob Lamothe and deeply resonated with me personally. The subtle yet honest lyricism fills these 11 songs with profound emotional weight. Lamothe draws from profound life experiences and personal circumstances that affected him deeply. Conveying the songs with lush, understated acoustic arrangements, he steps away from the more rocking sound of the past, allowing the power of the words and melodies to take center stage. 

Strumming guitars and gripping lyrics become the focal point. Like in the powerful third verse of ,,Kevin was my Cousin’’, Lamothe frees a torrent of raw emotion. With the haunting line “Give me a room, and the boy who pulled the trigger“, he invites us into the depths of his anguish. His whispered words following cut straight to the core; “Me and my anger, him and his ignorance”, as a sharp juxtaposition that lays bare the primal forces at play: Rage. The verse reaches its crescendo as Rob utters the chilling vow “...and we will see just how tough he is“. This closing line reverberates a brooding promise of reckoning, anger cresting in its contemplated guitar hook.


Through sparse yet searing lyrics, the artist channels a tormenting vortex of grief and fury. We are left shaken, having borne witness to the rawest expression of loss and thirst for justice. It’s a haunting portrait of human anguish distilled to its essence, like so many on `Gravity’.

Songs like the opening ,,Pull Me Under’’ immediately dim the lights while gripping deep. Subtle instrumentation, guitar and Rob’s vocals at the core. Progressing timidly, the song delves deep with Lamothe belting out his raw and soulful vocals. There’s so much life into it, the song crushes with waves of emotion. The album is consistent and stripped from any distractive instrumentation. Powerful and frontal guitars, the drums mostly absent, replaced by colorful percussion works and low lush bass lines when needed, like on the following ,,The Light of You”, and ,,Blair Mountain” with its wonderful chorus and choir interaction and outro with strings wailing. 

Lyrically rich, the paint vivid pictures and evoking powerful emotions through Lamothe’s evocative wordplay. His ability to blend introspective wordplay with intricate vocal lines and rich melodies is impressive. When diving into his own influences, Rob Lamothe brings forward the benchmark track ,,House of the Rising Sun”, which he injects with impressive vocal delivery. Drums prolific in tone, guitars amplified for once, the bedrock of the track rocks in luminous 70s style. Hammond droning and distorted guitar solo abound, it carries psychedelic notes that blend well with Rob’s engaging soulful vocals. His charismatic soulful midrange is versatile adding the rawer sub notes to the instrumental execution. 


There’s a tear in his voice that grips in sentiment, even more so on the following tribute to his father on ,,Strongest Man in the World”. Capturing his dad’s hero-status in fine word art, Rob sends shivers down the spine with remorseful retrospect. His storytelling on par, the piano puts in the right oozing emotions. Echoing with power, his voice reacts to the tone, toning down to his low register to address the moment his father lectures him. Music and words colliding, the song pitches into the wonderful vocal line “He held me and lifted me up to the stars. With just one hand, the strongest man… in the world”.

It is a genuine homage to his father and parents in general, instantly reflecting on your own parents. “He smiled as I walked up the aisle with my bride. He shook my hand, the strongest man in the world”, the line you hear Rob’s tear set free. I will not go into the instrumental breakdown and its lyrics as it goes much deeper. It is glorious but frail, profoundly touching and powerful, addressing how his spirit lives on in Rob’s own children.


Benefiting from the vinyl organics, songs impact with depth and sonic power. ,,Home” is a great example, with its deep bass drum and the vocal duet of Rob’s deep register and Shelly Williamson’s clear angelic pitch. The album takes a captivating turn with ,,Gone’’ as Rob Lamothe opens with the raw and vulnerable line, “Fucked up again last night” accompanied by a chord drenched in reverb and distortion. Maintaining his signature singer-songwriter approach, the song skillfully alternates between distortion and sudden, brief riffs, gradually building towards a momentous chorus driven by a tribal-esque drum beat. ,,Gone” stands as an oddity on the album, its anguished lyrics and heavy instrumentation providing a stark contrast to the exquisite piano-driven ,,Starting to Feel’’

This introspective track features Lamothe’s emotive vocals and a glorious guitar lick that ebbs and flows, allowing the song to breathe and his passion to shine through. The instrumentation on ,,Starting to Feel” is tastefully arranged, with each element carefully crafted to complement Lamothe’s vocals. The warmth and emotion hueing throughout the track leave the listener speechless, captivated by the depth of emotion conveyed. Reverting to the album’s more rocking essence, ,,My Head” emerges as a heavier, well-constructed track.

Lamothe’s storytelling prowess is immediately transferred through his lyrics, while the guitar solo soars with pitched and freehand playing, perfectly matching the tone of the song’s rich percussion and his great vocal execution.


Tucked away as a hidden track on its initial release in 1996, ,,Stay’’ has finally found its rightful place on the album it was originally intended for. This song stands at the crossroads of ,,Strongest Man in the World’’ and ,,Starting to Feel’’ blending the best elements of both tracks into captivating music and lyrics. At the core of ,,Stay’’ lies its lush piano, serving as the emotional anchor that guides the listener through Lamothe’s intricate and vulnerable lyrics. With honesty and vulnerability, the song delves deep into his emotion, inviting the audience to connect on a profound level.

As the song builds towards its climax, psychedelic Beatles-reminiscent organ and keyboard intertwines with a wavering guitar lick, creating a mesmerizing tapestry of sound. This fusion of elements elevates the song to new heights, transporting the listener to a realm where emotions and melodies intertwine in perfect harmony.


Those who collect all of settle for the 2cd version, are treated some interesting first recordings and session recording of the previously mentioned tracks aside unreleased songs. It is interesting to hear how ,,The Light of You’’ comes together in the ‘writing jam session’ transforming from its acoustic interactive echoing composition into the lighter organic version also featured on this 2nd disc. Especially interesting (to me) are the recordings of the powerful and most gut-wrecking tracks:

,,Kevin was my Cousin’’ sees minor changes in words (“man” instead of “boy”) and feels lighter on piano, with the bass sustain pedal less dominant in the mix, refraining from the low bass tone. The same goes for ,,Strongest Man in the World”, where the vocals are more condensed and harmonized with deep angelic chants in the mix. Rob’s outpour of emotions near the end is emotional and guttural. ,,Starting to Feel (like a Broken Heart to Me)” which features female vocals in the harmonies giving the song more radiance and emitting an accessible, slightly poppier tone. 


For those who collect the deluxe edition, they are treated to fascinating early recordings and session takes of the previously released tracks, as well as some unreleased songs. It’s intriguing to hear how ,,The Light of You’’ evolves during the ‘writing jam session’ from its initial acoustic, echoing hollow composition into the lighter, more organic version featured on the second disc. Especially captivating (in my opinion) are the recordings of the powerful and emotionally raw tracks:

,,Kevin Was My Cousin’’ sees minor lyrical changes (“man” instead of “boy”) and fresh lighter piano arrangement, with the bass sustain pedal less prominent in the mix, refraining from the deep, resonant low tones of the final version. On ,,Strongest Man in the World” the vocals are more condensed and harmonized with deep, angelic chants blended into the mix. Rob’s outpouring of emotions near the end is visceral and gut-wrenching. ,,Starting to Feel Like a Broken Heart to Me’’ is taken from the live-performance on Dutch radio show Countdown Café, and features female vocals adding radiant harmonies, giving the song a more accessible, slightly poppier tone. It immediately grips.


The alternate takes provide a fascinating glimpse into the creative process and evolution of these deeply personal, cathartic songs. All songs feature different yet minimal musical coloring with subtle arrangements adding value. ,,House of the Rising Sun” is opened with a section of keys whirling in accordion tone, atop an ebbing Moog droning. ,,Home” leans strongly on its percussion and guitar lick percolating in striking pitch, while Rob’s phrasing is different, emphasizing different emotions in the lyrics. 

,,My Head” features distorted vocals while being sung more fluently, bordering rock predominantly. In instrumentation it is propelled by the reverting lick and riff, with the vocal distortion reoccurring upon the song’s chorus. In the middle the song has the guitar ick magnified with keys jabbing underneath. Bass is plucked low with Rob whispering into answering machine to press the feeling of the distance portrayed in the song; “My head’s a million miles away…”. Different grit, exemplary for the approach of this 2nd cd adding value. 

More value is added with the unreleased tracks featured. ,,I’m so High” is another slow mover with lush guitars and percussion, with a pan flute enhancing the atmosphere. The scenic momentum is deep and rich, transporting the listener into an elemental spiritual moment of Rob’s experience. The vocal delivery of Rob Lamothe is (as always) spot on, conveying his feelings with great intensity, yet it drips with calmness. 


Absolutely wonderful is the ballad ,,Love is Permission”, which was used in the background of TV show ‘Melrose Place’. Rob Lamothe’s passionate, oozing tone beautifully contrasts with (co-composer) Christine Russell’s clean-pitched vocals, creating a sincere depth that intensifies as she belts out with more energy. The interaction between Lamothe and Russell is on par, with her high pitch fading into a soulful register. The subtle, lightly jazzy drum shuffle and ditto guitar lick inject the song with a broadening appeal, making it a passionate masterpiece. ,,Fools Gold” showcases Lamothe’s explorative and storytelling song writing skills. The melancholic instrumentation and jam-like organic arrangement anchor the track’s down-to-earth appeal, raining down a poignant melancholy.

,,The night she said Goodbye’’ touches deep with its gripping lyrics and flourishing intimacy and frailty. The song’s ingredients make up the finest lyricism found in ,,Real Love’’ which continues on the same terrain but is more richly colored by the returning guitar lick and a warming powerful, power ballad-esque execution of the chorus. The organic structure is underlined by the wonderful interplay of percussion, drums, and guitars, with the Moog percolating, creating a counterpart to the intimate lyrics through vocal harmonies and a powerful chorus.


While the lyrics take center stage, the musical compositions on `Gravity’ and its bonus disk are all equally impressive. Lamothe’s melodies are memorable and complementary to the deep lyrical content, creating a cohesive and immersive listening experience. `Gravity’ is a must-listen for fans of thoughtful and introspective song writing. Lamothe’s talent as a lyricist and composer is undeniable, and this album stands as an evidence of his artistic vision. While it may not have received the widespread recognition it deserved upon its release, `Gravity’ is a timeless work that deserves a place in any music lover’s collection.

`Gravity’ is now made available again on 2CD, featuring 13 extra tracks, and for the first time on vinyl. The latter to be released in limited edition on common black vinyl (500 pcs) as well as strictly limited sky-blue vinyl (100 pcs). Ensure your copy and make sure to see Rob Lamothe traveling light on his current European tour promoting and revisiting `Gravity’.



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