Album Reviews

Christopher Denny – If The Roses Don’t Kill Us (Partisan Records)

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Christopher Denny If The Roses don't kill usAt age 30, Christopher Denny has already lived a long life of poverty, hardship, dysfunction, addiction, success and failure. It’s enough to have ushered him to his final resting place. Thankfully, this Arkansas native has stared into the eyes of oblivion and chosen to remake himself, clean and sober, talent still intact.

It’s been seven years since Denny’s last album – seven long years of loss, pain and hitting bottom. It is not an exaggeration to say that he has succeeded in not only saving himself but in resurrecting his considerable talent. His tenor voice has been compared to Roy Orbison and Jeff Buckley, which is as flattering as such comparisons can get. His music is a mix of rock, folk, Southern country rock, and gospel. His songs all emerge from the inner turmoil his many demons continuously generate – raw and intense. He writes and sings it like he’s lived it and means it. He has and does. The musicianship on this album is first-rate, perfectly attuned to him, and the production puts it all together magnificently.

Mr. Denny has referred to his struggles with brilliant insight, calling them a “soft suicide”. But there is nothing “soft” or suicidal about this disc. It literally vibrates with life, pulses with an energy stolen from the Devil’s right hand. “Happy Sad” opens the album and sets the tone for the rest to follow: “part of its good, part of its bad”, but “God loves me anyway,” he sings convincingly. For me, the stand out track is “God’s Height” – a rousing, sarcastic, caustic tune to a lover who has grown so full of herself that she’s reached “God’s height.” But, he is free now, sees through her sorcery. She will no longer lord it over him and his heart. It is triumphant because he cannot suppress the simultaneous sense of joy that accompanies his release. Lastly, the tenth cut, “Ride On” is a bitter-sweet ballad of parting and farewell, tinged with sorrow but not bitterness. As he says in sizing things up, “we done beat this damned horse to death” – making the title’s metaphor quite ironic!

Mr. Denny deserves all the good fortune the world has to offer – he’s earned it. After all, listening to this album is one of the better pieces of good fortune the world has to offer for lovers of great American music.

– Robert Myers

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