From his endeavors as a street performer in Five Points, to his funky grooves and smooth flow for hip-hop group iNDEEDFACE, to guest jams wherever a stage will let him, Go! Ricky Go!, aka Ricky Fontaine, has proven beyond doubt that he’s a consistent contributor to the Atlanta music scene. Despite a limited availability of music, the guitarist and vocalist has made enough noise to make his presence felt in the city. So when he releases a project, in this case a solo LP titled PLAID, we should probably listen.
Fontaine opens the album with the soulful strains of “M.a.r.t.a. (Z After Life).” Like much of the record, it’s a conceptual track, in this case one that has the feel of a MARTA train passing through a tunnel as the guitarist delivers a series of tasteful riffs to what we can imagine to be a group of mostly distracted or disinterested commuters. As the train pulls up to the station, we hear the PA system announcing the next stop — Five Points (kudos to DJ Burn One and Five Points Bakery for integrating the actual recording of the Five Points stop instead of a generic “MARTA conductor” voiceover!). Immediately following, Fontaine begins to melodically spit the blues, and it’s the type of thoughtful melancholy that can touch all commuters — from the #MARTAchronicles blues to the life-commuting blues.
In fact, you could say the theme of PLAID are those blues, or at least the tales they tell. Accompanied by funky psychedelic rock and hip-hop sounds punctuated by the occasional electric guitar solo, Fontaine pens his stories in a dialect that is so Southern and so Atlanta that we can’t help but feel like this is an album for a MARTA commuter by a MARTA commuter. On “RxR,” he teams with Mel of The Outfit TX on a cut that laces the art of trainspotting with the adversities that come with pursuing your dreams in today’s downbeat climate. And although “Wavering” is a soulful and sexy connection with an unnamed lover, Fontaine quickly and seamlessly transitions from his eccentric intimacy to connecting the struggles of riding MARTA with issues of creative and socioeconomic freedom.
While there are some rocky vocal moments on the LP, there’s no questioning the passion of Fontaine’s delivery. Throughout PLAID he dabbles with various rap flows, challenging himself to step outside of what would seem to be his comfort zone. To me, his best moments arise when he’s harmonizing in the fashion of hybrid rappers like Post Malone and iLoveMakonnen, but there’s something here for just about anyone. Fontaine has created the kind of album that successfully integrates the eccentricity of modern-day Atlanta blues in a jam-like fashion without losing the edge of either Southern rap or psych rock. Plus the skits that imitate some of our precious Atlanta transit characters to a T are hilarious! Respect the balances.
Mr. Go! Ricky Go! continues to be as innovative on wax as he is on stage, and it’s proven here on PLAID. Over 14 tracks, he gives his fans a proper representation of his sound and style that they can carry with them, whether on a MARTA ride or elsewhere. From the grooviest track of the album, “Something New B4 Sunrise,” channeling Dungeon Family with its hard-hitting snare on the 4th count, to his funky ode to hallucinogens on “Ayahuasca,” it’s possible to simplify the layers of Fontaine’s eclectic journey to this one line: “I was just a soul man talking to a shaman.”