Sound — 10
Rivers & Rust is the lovechild of guitarist/vocalist Kyle Cook (lead guitarist and founding member of American rock band Matchbox 20) & Sheila Marshall (Top 10 finalist on TV's "Nashville Star" with a "Rootsy, Texas-tinged country rock" style). The pairs raw mix of soul, rock & Americana makes for an amazing and interesting sound, full of captivating vocals, gritty guitar tones and a real bluesy feel. This is a duo like no other, with the two's singing and writing abilities pairing perfectly for a truly impressive debut EP.
Vocally Cook & Marshall have two brilliant vocal tones. Sheila's voice captivating and bluesy, really emphasising the "Texas-tinged country rock" vibe she is known for. Her voice is highlighted in all of it's brilliance in "Wild & Restless" where her smooth and gentle voice hooks the listener in the most polished and brilliant vocal points of the album.
Kyle's voice, whilst not particularly highlighted in Matchbox 20 until 2013's album "North," where Kyle has writing credits and lead vocals on the song "The Way." For many Matchbox 20 fans this was a first, which opened their minds and ears to Kyle's musical ability apart from his brilliant musicianship and guitar work. On "Rivers & Rust" Kyle's voice is more focal, blending well with Sheila's and containing moments of brilliant throughout the EP. In the track "Dead & Done" Kyle's voice can be considered comparable to that of Lady Antebellum's Charles Kelley.
Instrumentally the presence of Kyle's guitar and his mastery of the instrument combines the musical aspects to the vocal aspect of the songs. His guitar tones are selected perfectly for each song. From the roaring solos of "Some Love" and "Dead & Gone" to the delicately plucked acoustic sound of "Wild & Restless" his guitar work is brilliantly executed.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically the songs are simple and catchy with each song designed to get stuck in your head and not budge from there for a long time. The album opener "Some Love" sets a mid-tempo groove that gets you shaking when you listen to it. Delicately chosen instrumental pieces with various guitars, a consistent beat and meticulous backing vocal & small instrumental additives, make the song a brilliantly inviting song, intriguing listeners. "Dead and Done" is arguably one of the best tracks on the album, with it's grooving bass line, catchy vocals, souring guitar solo and all-out awesomeness. Fans who were introduced to the due through their YouTube video of the track featuring only their two voices and Kyle's acoustic guitar were presented with a completely different presentation of the song. Which results is a more rocking, catchy and executed track. However, the acoustic version is still very impressive and inviting, however not present on the album.
"A Little Bit of Money" is a catchy tune, however with a strange choice of vocal effect the song makes the duo's vocals seem a bit out of place with the rest of the album. It was my least favourite track of the album, however was far from bad. It's memorable groove and cleverly simplistic hook make the song a fun, up-beat aspect to the record. The heartfelt "Wild & Restless" is a different piece to the rest of the album. The track highlights the hurt captured in Sheila's vocals and when accompanied by a delicately played acoustic guitar part by Kyle Cook makes for a moving sound that draws the listener in to the story. Cook's vocals are rounded and, like Sheila's, convincingly display a feeling of connectivity to the song and the pain in it's lyrics. Emotionally, it is the most moving piece on the album, and a highlight of the talent that both musicians have in producing a pure, captivating and real song.
"Light It All" lifts the tempo back up from the "Wild & Restless." With a similar vocal effect to that of "A Little Bit of Money," however to a much less extent "Light It All" is a fiery and fierce story of "teaching-him-a-lesson" singing "Light it up, let it burn, it's the only way the you're gonna learn." The song is brilliantly put together, it is fun, fast and definitely encourages movement in the crowd. The album closer "Confidential" is a seductive tale of two lovers, with a steady bass groove and whistled hook the song is consistent with the style of the rest of the album. The chorus doesn't move higher than the verses, with Kyle's vocals backed back from Sheila's, letting her smooth and fantastic vocals to move about with precision and delicacy, drawing people into the tale of love and the secrecy of.
The radio edits of the songs "Dead and Done" and "Confidential" are included at the end of the EP.
Overall Impression — 10
Rivers & Rust perfectly combines the talents of Sheila Marshall and Kyle Cook to deliver one of the best debut releases of the year. Every aspect of the album is brilliantly executed with no room for error. Simply perfection. It is definitely worth getting a hold of, and hopefully is the starting point for more brilliant songwriting achievements for the two.
Standout tracks: "Controversial," "Dead & Done," "Wild & Restless," "Light It All."