Richie Kotzen is quite the talented musician. He recently released his 21st studio album, Salting Earth, on April 14th and is the only musician on the project, besides Julia Lage adding background vocals to “Make It Easy.” Kotzen really offers a variety of styles on Salting Earth which includes blues, heavy guitars, syncopation, rocking solos and killer vocals. There are also a couple of R&B-inspired tracks that favor piano and keyboards over guitar.
There’s not a bad song on the ten track project, but “Thunder” is one that stands out to me. It kicks off hard with heavy guitars and drums but the chorus opens up for Kotzen’s vocals to really shine. He sings, “I am here, feel my thunder ’cause you know I paid the cost/If you dream to steal my thunder, I will stand behind my gun and watch you fall!”
“Divine Power” opens with vocals and acoustic guitars. It breaks into a heavy six-eight waltz in the middle of the first verse before building into a nasty blues solo Kotzen executes very cleanly. The second verse starts softly with vocals, guitar and piano but gets harder as the drums come back in mid-verse. The song reminds me of Jimi Hendrix as the second solo gets started with heavy drums — mostly a loud crash/ride — and killer guitar licks.
Piano is heavily featured on “My Rock” and “This Is The Life” which are more R&B oriented than others on the album, along with “Cannonball” that features keyboards front and center. The beautiful piano intro on “My Rock” is reminiscent of Billy Joel, but the track features classical keyboards and background vocals overdubbed that give it more of that R&B feel. “My Rock” really showcases Kotzen’s vocal abilities. He harmonizes with himself several octaves above the lead vocals.
“Make It Easy” and “Meds” are more guitar oriented and hard rocking, like the opening tracks “End Of Earth” and “Thunder.” “Make It Easy” could be easily played on classic rock radio, if classic rock radio played new songs by classic rock artists! The track really grooves and rocks and has a gospel choir-sounding chorus. The solo is pure perfection as Kotzen shows off his chops. “Meds” has a Seventies vibe with a prominent bass line and guitar/keyboard music bed, but doesn’t rock as hard as its predecessors.
The album closes with the adult pop sounding “Grammy.” Clocking in under three minutes, the track features an acoustic guitar with a piccolo snare that gives the track a different vibe from the rest of the project. He sings about how no one understands him, but his Grammy keeps him moving.
Overall, Salting Earth is diverse and showcases Kotzen’s different styles and talent. Without being told, one wouldn’t know this album — along with several others — features Kotzen as a one man band. He recently told me in an exclusive interview that it’s not usually planned out this way.
“It just kind of happens that way. I have so many records that end up being basically me, being the only guy on the record. It’s not really planned that way, but it often comes my nature how I record my music. Ninety percent of the time when I write a song, I’m hearing it finished in my mind. I know what the bass line is. I know what the drum beat is. I just know. I hear it and I know how to do it and I know how to make it come to life.”
Salting Earth is available physically and digitally via Amazon with physical copies available at his shows. Pick one up because you won’t regret it!