Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders - 'Little Johnny'

Independent Spotlight is a continuing series on Stewart’s blog. The series revolves around independent artists and bands sending their music to Brett to review. No band is promised a positive review, and all music is reviewed honestly in an effort to better independent music.

In this afternoon’s edition of the Independent Spotlight, we shine our gaze on Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders, an independent outfit from Australia that specializes in their own unique take on blues, country, and rock. The trio is preparing to release their next full-length studio endeavor, an album entitled ‘Greenbah.’ Ahead of its release, they’ve begun to showcase the record’s lead single, ‘Little Johnny.’ Is it a track worth having in your music collection? Is it a good indication of things to come from the band’s new album? Let’s find out.

Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders have a very ‘classic’ feel to their sound, akin perhaps to that of ‘outlaw country.’ ‘Little Johnny’ is an incredibly atmospheric jaunt through eerie, emotional country rock that’s tinged with blues. Electric guitar riffing seeps in and out of a reverb-laden landscape alongside sparse fiddle performance and thunderous percussion. There’s something undeniably authentic about the track - you’re left wanting to spin it over and over. (It’s also very well produced and worth listening to on the best headphones or speakers you’ve got.)

As a frontman, Roberts exudes a suave presence. He growls his way through ‘Little Johnny’ in a mysterious fashion. He’s most certainly not a traditionally talented vocalist, but nonetheless, he’s perfect for this kind of sound. There’s a gritty passion behind his crooning as he muses about the woman causing him grief. The track does a fine job of floating above a variety of genres without falling into any of them perfectly. For ‘Little Johnny,’ this absolutely works. I’d love to hear a full album of this style and see how the band expands it from track to track.

Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders have a sound that’s unto themselves; I rarely hear tracks like this in the indie scene. As aforementioned, it has an outlaw country aura to it. There’s more than that, though, and I’d even go as far to draw a parallel between the track’s instrumentation and that of Bob Dylan’s ‘Oh Mercy’ album. ‘The Man In The Long Black Coat’ is absolutely similar to this sound. (I consider that a high compliment, too. ‘Oh Mercy’ is Dylan’s midlife masterpiece.)

This is a single very much worth having in your library. It also makes a strong case for the album that’s to follow. Keep tabs on Billy Roberts and the Rough Riders. Good things look like they’re on their way.

Listen to the track: