Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones – Lights Are Burning

Fresh-sounding roots and blues rock record with a soulful, vintage pedigree...and a "song of the summer" candidate.

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My refrigerator is covered with magnets. Some useful; many not. One of the better ones is a square, blue and teal magnet with the following anonymous quote in black lettering:

stand in your own space and know you are there

Depending on the day, the quote serves as an affirmation, a gentle reminder, or a firm kick in the ass. But, on this day, it’s also the first thing that came to mind when I thought about Rob Larkin & The Wayward Ones’ new album Lights Are Burning.

In this era of streaming music that has opened up new channels for musicians to put out their art, democratized access for fans, and further fragmented audiences (in that you can seek out and highly personalize what you listen to…like with all other media), artists labeled as “genre-bending” who cut across, blow up, or otherwise disrupt familiar categories often get held up. Rightfully so in most cases, as these are artists operating at the leading edge of creativity and musicianship. And yet, what of those artists who fully, happily, expertly inhabit their genre rather than seek to break it?

Lights Are Burning is a confident album created by a frontman in Rob Larkin and a band who are standing firm in their own space. If you like soulful, vintage-sounding roots and blues rock, you will dig this record.

It announces itself with a snarling guitar riff and the thumping bass line of the lead single Long Time Gone. Other influences abound — threads of Americana on Don’t You Cut Me Off (with a nod to The Allman Brothers); warm, 70s-style R&B and rock vibes on Brother; modern rock laced with blues licks Moving Up (with a nod to good John Mayer); and a bit of breezy pop-rock on She Can Flow, which is about as sweet, and smooth, and inviting as a song can be. Add this track to your Summer 2018 playlist now. Immediately. I’ll wait.

…..(Ok, good).

The band is in great form and Emily Smith is a marvel as a featured vocalist. But it is Rob’s musicianship, versatility, and serious (I mean, serious) guitar chops that drive this album, the group’s second full-length record. Full disclosure, I’ve known Rob since our college days together. He’s always been one of the most intelligent, insightful, gifted guitarists I’ve heard — firing off perfectly conceived, timed, “weighted” riffs, hooks, and solos with seeming ease. With Lights Are Burning, I see his growth as a songwriter and musician in the clear intention he infused into the album.

It’s what brought to mind that damn magnet on my fridge because it is a record with a cohesive theme and vision that knows exactly what it’s all about in this space and moment in time. And, even if you don’t arrive at that state of mindfulness, it’s just a damn good listen. Spend some time and get to know Rob, The Wayward Ones, and their very cool independent, community-driven record label (Lowground Records).

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