The Lionfish – You Won’t Keep Me Down – Review

The LionfishThe Lionfish comes barreling out of the Northeast US with passion and grit. A synthesis of Rock n Roll and Americana, the Connecticut-based blues rockers have been hard at work on the follow-up to their 2016 debut. Entitled You Won’t Keep Me Down, the album showcases a band developing its sound and coalescing into a powerhouse of rock fury.

The Lionfish – You Won’t Keep Me Down

“You Won’t Keep Me Down” begins as the title track, a swaggering bluesy number driven by slide guitar and steady drumming. As vocalist/songwriter Robby Schwartz triumphantly asserts the sentiment of the title, swirling organ dances around the arrangement, augmenting the power of the rhythm section. “Go ahead and try,” Schwartz challenges an unknown contender; the adversity will be overcome.

Influenced by Schwartz’s time in Ecuador, “Dogs of Quito” is a dynamic march through urban imagery. As the “dogs of Quito howl on and on and on!” Schwartz invokes the scenery of wild canines roaming the streets, “just looking for something to eat”. The music is a perfect emotional match, powerful but also parlaying to the listener the dissatisfaction of unfulfilled desires.

The vibe changes on “She Lifts Me Up”, as the listener is treated to a more relaxed atmosphere, augmented by angelic backing vocals and upbeat piano. Reminiscent of 1970s FM radio, the positive feels are helped along by a rhapsodic piano solo. As the band cycles through modulations and jubilant exclamations, Schwartz delivers on his promise that he values love above all else in life.

On “The Last Town”, the band finds themselves exploring their mellow, acoustic side. A sad shuffle, the song details the story of a wandering soul, constantly searching for something unattainable in each next location. “It’s all the same, put my drink down”, Schwartz sings, embodying the weariness of a road-worn traveller.

The band brings the energy level back to 11 on “Surfer Girl”, a raucous romp about falling in love with a girl the singer first observes as she’s “tearing up the waves”. The listener is told: “Like a tidal wave, she rocked my world”, and the band rocks in the same fashion, knocking the listener over with the power of rushing water. The aquatic imagery continues as the band crescendos behind cries of “I wanna get caught in the riptide of your love”, eventually giving way to searing guitar leads and Little Richard-esque “woos”. The Latin American-inspired “Love (Sin Amor Nada)” incorporates syncopated conga rhythms and ethereal Spanish backing vocals. Once again discussing his favorite lyrical topic, Schwartz nevertheless finds ways to keep the material fresh and interesting.

Overall, the album could benefit from some improvements in production quality. It is not poorly done by any stretch, but perhaps under-done; some added engineering bells and whistles would enhance the experience to the listener. And while he’s certainly a talented vocalist, one wonders if Schwartz is the optimal choice as lead vocalist for every single song; the material is varied enough that some songs may have been helped by variety in vocal timbres as well. All in all, however, You Won’t Keep Me Down is a great second entry in a budding catalogue from a band beginning to hit their sonic stride.

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