Every year we have an album or two that we just miss from the previous year. That was the case for Christian Lopez’s album Red Arrow. It’s a wonderful blend of classic country music and some of the modern styles. Whatever you call it, this fella can write a song and sing the heck out of it. This is a brand of country that I can support 100%.
With an immediate feel-good vibe, Lopez begins his album with “Swim the River.” It’s about proving his manhood, winning a woman, and finding his place in the world. The great thing about Lopez is that he’s able to communicate confidence and bravado without coming across as a sleezebag. It’s a non-toxic masculinity, to borrow a pop culture phrase. The “taking aim at your heart” line comes across as genuinely sweet. This should be a hit country song.
The following “1972” has organ, saucy guitar licks, and a superbly smooth vocal. Perhaps this one is more Americana than country, but it’s a fantastic song. Lopez feels like a truly undiscovered star. His music reminds me of how I felt when I first heard Amos Lee. How isn’t he a superstar? I think it’s just a matter of time. The “wake up somewhere new” line in this rolls off the tongue and it’s a great image of a life of adventure.
“Don’t Wanna Say Goodnight” has a fun rhythm to it, again following the theme of wooing a woman. He covers cliches like tight jeans and trying to get a dance with a pretty woman, but he does it with a sort of nonchalance that feels much more comfortable than the typical mainstream country style. It’s a cool track where he’s basically trying to convince a woman to let him stay the night… and the dude is really smooth about it.
“Silver Line” might be my favorite on the album merely because it’s the most typical folk track. The guitar work on it might be the best on the whole album. When the organ enters after the first verse, the listener gets chills. The theme is love, of course, with more poetic charm. Lopez is one of those rare artists that conveys love in songs with a genuine charm.
“Someday” is about insomnia and being love crazy. It’s about being so in love that you don’t know what to do with yourself. The instrumentation and melody are a bit more mainstream country, but it’s easy listening and works for the theme. “Say Goodbye” is more of a pop rock track than the others on the album, but it fits with Lopez’s overall Americana style. The lyrics certainly fit with the love theme of the album.
“All the Time” is a contemplative folk acoustic track that I find really enjoyable. This is Lopez at his best. The effect on the vocal makes it sound like he’s in the Ryman all by himself, letting his gorgeous vocal soar over those seats. There’s a philosophical dimension to the track that makes the lyrics more intriguing than some of the others on the album. The mood shifts a bit for “Mexico,” a typical Americana track that blends folk and rock elements. It’s more of a “yee haw” kind of song, but even includes some horns. Lopez plays with themes of life on the border of the United States and Mexico. It’s definitely a culturally significant theme right now.
“Steel on the Water” reminds of Jason Isbell. In fact, Lopez has several parallels with Isbell from songwriting style to clean electric guitar lines. The theme of this song is actually about being away off at sea in the service; it’s really an impressive way to handle a powerful theme.
I was really excited when I saw Kenneth Pattengale on the notes, as he is half of the famous Milk Carton Kids duo. I couldn’t wait to hear Pattengale’s impressive acoustic work along with Lopez’s dulcet tones. “Caramel,” the song they did together, is probably my favorite song on the whole album. It’s beautiful, moving, and shows the deep music making roots of these two exceptional artists.
The final track “Still on it feet” finishes the album nicely. It’s a good snapshot of the album overall, actually. It begins with contemplative acoustic guitar and then moves into a full band country anthem. It’s a nice way to end a quality album.
I’ve mentioned a few comparisons and several ways the album makes the listener feel. It’s a good album to think about life and love, for sure. I am a fan of Lopez after this one, for sure. It’s an album that I will come back to for years to come. I regret not including it in my top albums of 2017 list and will follow Lopez more closely in the coming years. As I said to my personal friends on social media, Lopez is the biggest star you’ve never heard of. If the Amos Lee comparison means anything to you, follow this talented young man now before he really takes off in the coming years.