Richie Kotzen – Salting Earth (Album Review)

Richie Kotzen – Salting Earth (Album Review)

The proficient American Singer-Songwriter known as Richie Kotzen has unleashed again another masterpiece. Titled Salting Earth, it is the latest in his now twenty-one-album solo discography, which started in 1989 with the guitar-instrumental self-titled release and which was directly preceded by 2015’s Rhythm-and-Blues-dominated Cannibals.

Born on February 3, 1970, in Pennsylvania, United States, Kotzen came to prominence in 1991 when he joined Poison. He eventually led a productive and successful career, not only as the guitarist of the said American Glam Metal band but also as a solo artist in his own right and in collaboration with other musicians who included Gene Simmons of Kiss and the Jazz legend Stanley Clark.

Going onto to become the guitarist of another A-list Metal band, Mr. Big, and more recently beloved hard rockers, The Winery Dogs, Kotzen is nothing less than prolific. His latest latest work, Salting Earth, released on April 17th via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc., is an interesting mix of the various musical styles that he has engaged in since the beginning of his career. Those styles range from Metal, Grunge, Classic Rock, Blue-eyed Soul, Blues, to Jazz Fusion, and with ten new songs in total, Kotzen covers it all.

It opens with the six-minute dry-desert metallic rocker “End of Earth,” whose every part was obviously well-conceived, with Kotzen’s virtuosity immediately rising to the fore. The same sonic clarity shines through the ensuing “Thunder,” albeit expressed in Grunge, in terms of the likes of Alice in Chains (“Man in the Box”), Soundgarden (“Outshined”), and Pearl Jam (“Even Flow”). Still grungy yet a bit bluesy, “Divine Power” relaxes and slows down the mood for a bit. Then, the following triumvirate of the upbeat “I’ve Got You,” the string-laden “My Rock,” and the syncopated, piano-led “This Is Life” are definitely a change of style and pace; they hark back to the smooth, sensuous, and silky ’70s Soul, reminiscent of the decade’s purveyors of the genre such as Al Green (“Let’s Stay Together”), Marvin Gaye (“What’s Going On”), and Curtis Mayfield (“Diamond in the Back”).

Following, “Make It Easy” takes the listener to the purple and hazy Classic Rock abandon of the late ’60s, only to return to the album’s general R&B/Soul direction as “Meds” and “Cannon Ball” play in succession. Finally, Salting Earth wraps up with “Grammy,” whose simple strums, repetitive rhythm, and faint falsettos further show how the versatile and virtuosic Kotzen could turn unflashy and unassuming when he wanted to.

The progression of Kotzen’s music is so natural and evolutionary, from the Heavy Metal technicality and flamboyance of his early works to the more assured, colorful and classy panache of his latest offering – and yet the few things that bind him to his body of works remain omnipresent – his passion, hard work, creativity, and, most of all, proficiency with his instruments, which are his songs, voice, and guitar. Currently out on a tour across the US through May 21st, Kotzen is a must see, and Salting Earth is a must listen. That is why CrypticRock gives Salting Earth 5 out of 5 stars.

Tour Dates:
Tue 4/25 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick
Fri 4/28 Las Vegas, NV Vamp’d
Sat 4/29 Scottsdale, AZ BLK Live
Mon 5/1 Denver, CO Oriental Theatre
Wed 5/3 Moline, IA Rascal’s Live
Thu 5/4 St. Charles, IL Arcada Theatre
Fri 5/5 Westland, MI The Token Lounge
Sun 5/7 Whitesburg, KY Appalshop Theater
Tue 5/9 Pittsburgh, PA Altar Bar
Thu 5/11 New York, NY B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
Sat 5/13 Annapolis, MD Rams Head On Stage
Sun 5/14 New Hope, PA Havana New Hope
Wed 5/17 Bethlehem, PA Musikfest Café

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aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He started writing album reviews for Cryptic Rock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf?; in 2021, his first book of poetry, Pag-íhip sa Dáhon ng Kahápon [Blowing Leaves of Yesterday]. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. aLfie is a dedicated father to his now 13-year-old son, Evawwen; and a loving husband to Kathryn Mella, who herself moonlights also as a writer aside from holding a degree in Bachelor of Arts, Major in Sociology.

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