Baby Ranch 2023


A quarter-century into his solo endeavors, renowned Buckeye locates the future-in-the-past tense at the end of the rainbow and colors the horizon ever brighter.

For all its infectious cynicism, Rob Fetters’ 2020 album "Ship Shake" bored into the listener’s mind with rare, never-boring elegance, but the former Bear’s next offering should take its “Keep it simple, stupid” slogan to a different direction, embossing faux innocence upon his recently reassessed proclivity for psychedelic sonics and proper merriment. So though the serious “Embarrassed” – one of the veteran’s fresh cuts that make “Mother” bleed – find him stating “I’m so ashamed I wrote a song I don’t want anyone to hear” over stately piano passages, there’s not a trace of chagrin on this record whose primary goal is to entertain and stir sympathy in kindred spirits.

That’s why opening ditty “Why Love You?” poses a rhetorical – given a few of the Fetters family members are on this track – question, piling multiple voices on top of insistent beat and raising smiles before introducing a baroque uplift to its drift and marrying Mellotron vignettes to lysergic guitars as if to contrast the sincere sentiment behind the gradually expanding, yet sparsely constructed, dynamics of “Brothermother” where Rob’s bass notes punctuate his solemn self-analysis. As a precursor to the cosmic calypso of “She Makes It Up” which is propelled towards rock ‘n’ roll riffs and an exquisite six-string lace, such a gambit couldn’t be more perfect, allowing no surprise when the specters of Napoleon and Marquis De Sade arise among the chamber strings of “Trouble Was Good” which turns the artist’s life philosophy into a dance-inducing electric throb and throws initial thoughtfulness out the window.

However, while “I Don’t Know Why” presents as good an answer to Fetter’s questions as any, it reveals his patchouli-scented pop agenda and creates a platform for the acoustic balladry of “Lamento” to shimmer until Rob’s plugged in and to see his unhurried delivery repel false nostalgia in favor of foot-stomping orchestral sway and raga swirl. And while the short “Nice” and “Always” channel patinated folk via the singer’s warm, phased vocals and subtle stereo-panning, “Girl On The Q” delves into the finely chiseled chill of Chicago blues, and the cheery “Ready” brings things to a close by picking up where a certain Curtis Mayfield’s perennial left off and having the “Pay attention, stupid” line complete the circle. The circle that started with the musician’s birth, thanks to his mother, and has remained unbroken.


December 3, 2023

Category(s): Reviews
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