Over Rich O’Toole’s career he has amassed 14 top ten hits at Texas country radio and opened for the likes of Willie Nelson and Josh Abbott. O’Toole has recorded six albums to date including his brand new album American Kid. Rich O’Toole who is originally from Houston Texas wrote this entire album in Los Angeles California which you will hear referenced on the album.
The album opens up with the fun, uptempo title track “American Kid.” The song is a patriotic salute to the type of guy that O’Toole is. It’s pretty common that an album open up with a fun, loud song that tells the listener about yourself and this song is certainly that. What we hear on “Sunset Blvd” and on the title track is something you will hear throughout the album and that is heavy electric guitar. This is the song that I referenced in the first paragraph as being about Los Angeles. It tells the story of a man and his girl trying to make it in the music business in LA. It breaks down the hardships that are faced including having to sleep in his car and having to pawn his favorite guitar in order to get some cash. As music fans we often only see the product which comes after years of struggling to get by going unnoticed in the big city, so it’s important to hear about what you don’t get to see.
“Casino Lights” has a great melody but, is one of the sadder songs on the album. The man in this track struggles with addiction to both gambling and at the end we find out drugs as well. Addictions have cost this man everything in his life including his love and his child. The song ends with him doped up on amphetamine’s with a hooker in his car. Another sad track on this album is “Heartbreak is a Currency.” Love has never gotten this man anything but pain. After another woman leaves him he asks the bank teller if she could exchange his pain for money which is much more valuable to him than love.
The album transitions to a more positive outlook in “The Hardest Part.” This is the classic country story of a man being a wild party guy who never see’s himself settling down. Then he meets a woman who makes him want to change to be a better man for her because she deserves the best. Before he met her he had no money, no job and no worries but, for her he is going to change. This song also has a great rhythm to the chorus. “God Save the King” is another song about the difficulties associated with being a professional musician. The story finds a man who was once compared to Elvis Presley now performing in a little bar. People assume who knew him when he was famous that he died because he fell out of the lime lite but, the reality is he didn’t like being famous. He decided one day to get away from Tennessee and leave that life behind.
“Springsteen Gold” is the type of song that we have been hearing a great deal of lately. This is almost like a critique of the music that is being played not only on country radio but all radio. The music no longer makes you feel anything and the man in song is having nostalgia for the 70’s and 80’s when he feels radio was at it’s best.
The album closes out with “Back to Back” and “Take it From Here.” “Take it From Here” is a gospel influenced soothing love song with a chorus in the background. “Back to Back” details a marriage that appears to be on the brink of divorce. The husband and wife sleep back to back and are fighting constantly. The husband wishes that they could be happy together again and says that he would do anything to fix their marriage. He can’t take the discourse any longer and wonders if he sets aside his pride and turns around if his wife would do the same.
Overall I found this to be a really good album. I would best describe it as alt country with clear rock influences. There is a great energy to this album, even on the more depressing tracks.
Album Grade: B 8/10
Best Songs: Back to Back, Casino Lights, Sunset Blvd