Ricky Byrd

Lifer

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He calls his solo debut Lifer because that is what Ricky Byrd is: somebody devoted to the cause, somebody who has pledged his life to rock & roll. Byrd is releasing Lifer in 2013, many many years into his career, but he's never stepped to the front of the stage, instead spending years as a Blackheart in Joan Jett's band, where he also often collaborated with the rocker. After he left the Blackhearts, he supported Ian Hunter and Roger Daltrey, beginning a solo project in 2001 but taking his time to finish it. The decade-plus delay between its inception and release doesn't hurt Lifer because Byrd is so thoroughly entrenched in classic rock, it would've sounded similar whether it appeared in 2003 or 2013. Arguably, the extra time gave Byrd time to hone his songwriting, as this 11-track record is tight and precise without being fussy. Certainly, Byrd not only knows how to play rock & roll but he knows how to throw spirited salutes to his favorite acts, turning out a terrific Ian Hunter tribute in the opener "Rock N Roll Boys," approximating the ramshackle heart of Ronnie Lane on "Foolish Kind," easing into a tight Memphis soul groove on "Ways of a Woman," conjuring the guitar tapestry of Keef and Woody on "Dream Big," while knocking out a good Chuck Berry number on "Harlem Rose." For as many echoes of idols as there are here, Ricky Byrd doesn't seem stuck in the past; rather, he's carrying the flame for good old rock & roll, and Lifer makes a convincing case that the guitarist is part of that long, storied tradition.

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