Great Rock with Real Purpose: Ricky Byrd's Clean Getaway

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Ricky Byrd, Clean Getaway

Ricky Byrd, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee (with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts) and reformed addict (over 30 years clean), has been writing songs and playing concerts at rehab and recovery clinics around the nation to bring hope to those in recovery to help give them the strength to carry on. As he puts it, he was blessed with the “gift of desperation” in 1987.

The collections of songs on his latest album, CLEAN GETAWAY, comes because of requests from people at these shows, and I can honestly say I have never heard anything else like this collection of songs before.

As someone who has never used, let alone been addicted to, drugs or alcohol, I can’t relate first hand to how these songs could affect my life. But I do know firsthand how addiction can affect someone you love, and how such songs like these could have had a positive influence on them, had they the opportunity to have heard them. I could tell with each song that Ricky sang and played them from his heart, and I must believe there are people out there these songs could definitely inspire.

While all the songs revolve around this central theme, many different styles are brought forth; and the louder you play them, the better they are. He is, after all, a rocker.

The first song, “Kicks,” maintains its classic rock and roll rhythm and pace (although knowing what this album is about will have you thinking of it in a totally different light). “Better Days” is sung in a very Dylanesque style. And “Kid (A Cautionary Tale)” has this wonderful plea with one of the best, most poignant lines: “Ain’t preachin’, just reachin’ out to you kid.”

The titular song, “Clean Getaway,” changes over to a traditional blues song with some blues guitar to go with the lyrics. Byrd’s use of lyrics and the way he sings them lends itself perfectly to this song style, recalling Albert Collins.

There are songs with a distinctive, heavy, rockabilly beat along the lines of the Georgia Satellites with a little Tom Petty and Chuck Berry thrown in for good measure. Some have a ‘60s rock beat to them ala Ray Davies and the Kinks with some wonderful guitar playing. But in no way think of this is as Ricky Byrd trying to sound like all of these people. It’s not. It’s just that among excellent musicians, correlations can’t help but be made. But none of those artists ever wrote songs like you will find on this album. In fact, I think he shows more true rock capability on these songs than with the Blackhearts--which is going some, but he is that good here.

What I really find interesting is that the titles of each of these songs tells the story in itself (see list below), giving sort of a prelude to what the song is about, more so than many other songs which are given titles because they sound cool or have a nice ring to them.

“High Wire” was so well written, you feel the plea for help come out of it, and there is more than one song in this set that sings of reaching out to God, praying for help because they can’t/couldn’t do it on their own, or they are at their lowest and recognize only He can help them.

The album itself is recorded well, with a nice sense of space characteristics. But here is a case where the album itself is written, composed and performed so well it transcends the music itself, drawing you into each song to feel the emotional message each song contains.

There are many musicians in this world who are reformed from one thing or another, and have written a song or two about their journey. But I don’t know of another complete album dedicated to the struggles and success of recovery, written so well that it is never once boring after hearing the first couple of songs. No, here is an album that is so good it serves a dual purpose: as a great album to listen to over and over again, and as a great album full of hope and help.

Few people go through life and make a difference in other people lives. Here is an example of someone who has, and has been devoted to doing it for decades. Many of us--myself included--are content to just sit on the sidelines and go “Tsk, tsk, I should do something.” But we don’t. Well here’s your chance to do some good and get something good out of it for yourself.

Sadly, I doubt any of the songs will get airplay (except for the first song, in its original version). But these songs are very important, and I am sure there are people out there who need to hear the messages in these songs.

By buying this CD, you will help get the message of help and hope out there, and become a little more aware yourself, all while cranking out great songs. You may get inspired to help, and there are a lot of places out there that can use you and me. A good place to start is Byrd’s non-profit: CleanGetAway.nyc

Very recommended.

Rated 5 out of 5 for content, 4 out of 5 for sonics.

Songs:

  1. Kicks
  2. Better Days
  3. Kid (A Cautionary Tale)
  4. Clean Getaway
  5. I Prefer Wakin’ Up, to Comin’ To
  6. Lighthouse
Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0