Sound — 9
Still fairly unknown outside of New England, Chris Ross has become quite a hometown hero in Ellsworth, ME. His debut album, "The Steady Stumble" was recorded in Nashville in "three 11 hour days". One day was spent recording his vocals and guitar. A second was consumed with recording the backing musicians whom Ross described as "Amazing, freakishly talented, completely professional, super efficient and wicked cool on top of that." The final day was spent mixing and mastering. Ross, 26, is a Hancock County native with a scruffy beard, and a voice very reminiscent of Ray LaMontagne. He's not just another acoustic singer/songwriter, a couple songs on this album, and quite a bit of his second album ("Halfway To Wonderland") have a very country sound to them. 1. "Singin' To Find You" - The opener on this album starts things off wonderfully. His acoustic guitar tuned to EACGCE with a capo on the 2nd fret (I think), Chris plays a fairly mid tempo guitar riff a couple times before his voice is first heard. The lyrics to this song are basically listing off places he's been or places he's willing to go to find "the one" - "From the sunny shores of Georgia to the cold New Hampshire rain, to the red tailights of Brooklyn, the prairies and the plains I'm singin' to find you" - The chorus explains how he's been writing songs since he was a kid sitting on his bed: "Strummin' along, scribblin' lead and tryin' to find you". The guitar part doesn't change a whole lot, the acoustic riff from the beginning is played almost throughout the entire 4 minute long track. Great song with well written lyrics. 2. "No More" - Another song starting out with Chris just playing a riff on his acoustic, before drums and bass come in before Chris begins to sing. No More is a more upbeat track about a woman leaving him. This isn't one of my favorites from the album, but it's still pretty well written. A few great lyrical lines in this tune: "I used to be a king now I'm just a jack", "I rode in regal high upon my steed, I ruled this ground beneath my feet but no more". Again, not my favorite, but still pretty good. 3. "Might Be" - The first Chris Ross song I ever heard, and still one of my favorites. For the most part, the song is just Chris singing with his guitar, but there is a lap steel part in the background to fill the track out. This is a song about a man (Chris) thinking about an ex: "I'm smart enough to know that a woman so free, ain't lyin' awake at night thinkin' of me... Oh no but she might be". During the chorus, he's singing about how she's telling him he's got a brand new start, and she's acting like she never did anything wrong. This song is pretty simple, but easy to play and easy to sing. Whenever I recommend Chris Ross' music to someone, I definitely point this song out first. 4. "Runnin' Man" - "Runnin' Man" is another song I don't care for. Another guitar acoustic guitar riff starts the song out, before the lap steel makes it's second appearance. Lyrically, this song is sort of about being on the move (as the title may suggest), and this time being the one who leaves in a relationship never to return: "Like only a runnin' man can". I don't have a whole lot else to say about this song, again, not one of my favorites. 5. "The Right Thing" - Starting with another acoustic chord progression, before an electric guitar plays a slow country sort of guitar solo over the top of it. The progression begins to repeat as Chris starts singing about regretting things he's done, wishing he could have done the right thing: "I shoulda done the right thing babe I tried to do the right thing but it takes, a stronger man, to know what's the right thing I didn't, know what the right thing was". The country sounding electric guitar is still present throughout the entire song, just to fill out the sound a bit. This is another favorite of mine. 6. "New Years" - This song is probably the slowest and saddest track on the album. The lyrics are very personal sounding and brilliantly written. The song is (again) about a woman leaving, and Chris not bothering to put on a smile and pretend not to be hurt: "A little white lie between the blood and dirt", and coming to terms with the fact that the woman isn't coming back. The bridge of the song is definitely the most compelling part though: "But there's always something left to stumble onto A secret darkness unconfessed The miracle of understanding The tragedy of old regret The politics of love and war All bullet holes and barricades Almost always counts for something In horseshoes, love, and hand grenades I wanna climb up on that tower Look down on the hearts below Delicate and half devoured Lost and looking for a home Cause memories they turn to shadows A part of you forever more You'll throw yourself upon the gallows For one moment free from keeping score" Incredibly well written, heartfelt song, also very easy to play. 7. "Just Like The Ocean" - A song about not caring a whole lot if the relationship ends or continues, because either way life will go on: "It rolls just like the ocean". This song is as usual, mostly just Chris with his guitar, only this time in the background, a violin can be heard, which is a nice change from either solely acoustic, or acoustic with a lap steel. Pretty good song, not really a favorite though. 8. "All The Way Down" - A song inspired by true events, a shooting in Hancock County, Maine a year or two ago. Two young adults desperate for money to buy drugs with: "He looks at her now all ragged and sick, pulls her in close says we'll get rich quick". The lovers end up going on a spree of armed robbery. Until going to a "house at the end of a long dirt road", home of "A man who's hands have never been slow." The girl goes to the door alone and lies saying she's "Broke down and needs a lift, Nick's around the corner with a gun on his hip". The man in the house shoots and kills the young man, Nick. And the girl gets arrested. This song really showcases Chris' storytelling ability, how he can take such a tragic story and turn it into such a well written 5 and a half minute long song. A fiddle and (I believe) bongo's are played in the background of this song, along with Chris and his guitar. 9. "Grew Up Young" - Definitely the most country sounding track on the CD. Country sounding electric riff with a quick, sort of boogie'ing acoustic part. Lyrics about Chris growing up young and fast: "Grew up drinkin' from a whiskey glass, grew up dreamin' of that rock 'n roll, smokin' that dope when I was 12 years old". The chorus reminding everyone that they're never too young to die, and never too old to try again. Not really a favorite, but this song is a fun one. 10. "My Time" - "My Time" starts out with a simple acoustic riff, that is played throughout almost the entire song. The song is about wondering when the singer will find "their time" to fall in love and stay that way. This is another song that is just nothing but Chris singing with his guitar. 11. "Stay A Little Longer" - The perfect closing song for the album. "Stay A Little Longer" is about driving through Northern Maine, seeing nothing but "logging trucks every once in a while", reminiscing on past loves. A line that is repeated in every verse is "I knew a girl there once..." then the verse goes on to explain how: "Didn't catch her name, just gave her a ride up to Sugarloaf Lane". The chorus is: "Stay a little longer, maybe I ain't had enough of you yet, gimme just one more minute, just one more minute and I won't ask you again, I know it's a slow ride, I know you really gotta go home, stay a little longer, before you go", regretting the fact that he just let each one go. There's a harmonica in this song after every chorus, again just rounding out the sound.
Lyrics — 10
Chris Ross is an amazing lyricist, and a hell of a story teller. His lyrics also fit the music very well, a sad song such as "New Years" has a slowly guitar part comprised of just a G and a D played over and over again. But a fun song like "Grew Up Young", has electric guitar played over an energetic acoustic riff, and it's way more upbeat and makes you wanna get up and move.
Overall Impression — 9
As stated in the beginning of the review, Ray LaMontagne is a big influence on Chris Ross, along with Bruce Springsteen. The most impressive songs from the album would have to be "Might Be", "All The Way Down", and "The Right Thing". I really don't hate anything about this album, but I love the sound of Chris' voice, and his lyrics. I'd definitely find this album again if it were lost or stolen.